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D: Tim Johnson / 94m

Cast: Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Steve Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Matt Jones, Brian Stepanek

Fleeing from their sworn enemy the Gorg, the Boov race – led by Captain Smek (Martin) – arrive on Earth and begin to colonise it, sequestering the human population in various locations around the globe. The Boov are otherwise a peaceful race, and believe they are doing Earth a favour by inhabiting it. One of them, Oh (Parsons), decides to invite everyone to a party at his apartment, but when he sends out his electronic invitation he doesn’t realise that it will be picked up by the Gorg as well. When Captain Smek learns of this, Oh is forced to go on the run.

In a convenience store, Oh runs into Tip (Rihanna) and her cat Pig. Tip is on her own after her mother, Lucy (Lopez), was taken away. She hates the Boov, but when Oh transforms her mother’s car into one that can fly, and he agrees to help her find her mother, she lets him come with her. They fly to Paris to the Boov Command Centre where they learn that Lucy is in Australia. Evading the Boov, they then find themselves under attack from a Gorg ship. They manage to bring it down but their car is damaged in the process. The Gorg ship proves to be a drone, and Oh is able to use a chip from it to get their car going again.

Once in Australia, Tip and Oh discover that the Boov are evacuating to their mothership. Tip wants to find her mother but Oh insists they leave with the rest of the Boov before the Gorg destroy them all. Tip refuses and continues her search for Lucy, while Oh begins to realise that he has to do something to stop the Gorg from killing everyone, Boov and human alike. On the Boov mothership he uses the chip from the drone to place their mothership at a distance from the newly arrived Gorg mothership. This leads to Captain Smek being dismissed from his position as Boov leader, and the honour is given to Oh.

Tip and Lucy are finally reunited, but there’s still the problem of the Gorg mothership which has entered Earth’s atmosphere and is preparing to land outside the Australian camp. Oh has only a short time to find a solution that will save them all, but he finds the answer in the most unlikeliest of places…

Home - scene

Now fully committed to making computer animated movies – their last traditional animated movie was Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003) – Dreamworks now finds itself, perhaps like Pixar, in a very strange position. Each animated movie it releases comes under a great deal of scrutiny, and Home is no different, with the movie being accused of failing to live up to the standards set by the likes of How to Train Your Dragon (2010) or Kung Fu Panda (2008). It’s an invidious position to be in, and in the case of Home, more than a little unfair.

Certainly, the movie’s message that we’re all the same under the skin (even if it is purple) is a well-worn theme in cinema, but here it’s not as hammered home as some other movies, and it’s approach to racial diversity – Tip is the first non-Caucasian lead in an animated movie – as well as its integration of the Boov, who adopt most human lifestyles, is all cleverly done. If it all seems predictable and safe, then that’s because it is. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that though, because the movie does it all with a tremendous amount of verve and eye-popping visual splendour, and is consistently funny throughout, thanks to Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember’s astute adaptation of Adam Rex’s kid-lit novel The True Meaning of Smekday.

Fizzing with a day-glo colour scheme that makes almost every scene glisten and zing, Home creates one of the sweetest on screen relationships seen for some time, as Oh and Tip become friends and realise how strong their bond is. Parsons is excellent as Oh, his vocal tics and mannerisms – some lifted, admittedly, from The Big Bang Theory – a perfect match for the continually puzzled yet curious little Boov, and Rihanna is just as effective as Tip, matching her co-star for emotional expression and displaying a range that may come as a surprise to some viewers. Martin almost steals the show with his turn as the cowardly Captain Smek, the character’s pompous vanity perfectly expressed in every scene he’s in, and while it may not be the most layered performance, it doesn’t have to be. With less screen time, Lopez doesn’t quite register as strongly as Lucy, but again, the relationship between Tip and Oh is the main focus, and not Tip and her mother.

Ably directed by Johnson, Home sets out its stall quickly and efficiently and provides enough entertainment for adults and kids alike. It isn’t a serious movie by any standard, and relies on the charm of its lead characters for most of its running time, but Oh and Tip are delightfully animated and voiced, and make for a great screen partnership. The Boov are a delight as well, the way their bodies change shade or colour depending on how they feel being one of the movie’s small pleasures. The movie doesn’t try too hard and does a lot with its small-scale story and plot, and proves endlessly visually inventive. It’s a fun, popcorn movie, the kind of animated distraction we could all use from time to time… and what’s wrong with that?

Rating: 8/10 – with a bucket load of charm and a refreshingly straightforward approach to its storyline, Home is a movie that rewards the viewer from start to finish; fun with a capital F and proof it were needed that Dreamworks is still making good choices when it comes to its animated movies.