With the voices of Rihanna, Jim Parsons, Steve Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Matt Jones. Written by Tom J. Astle, Matt Ember. Directed by Tim Johnson. Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor. 94 minutes
HOME isn’t likely to be an Oscar contender in the animation category next year, but it is a charming entertainment for children that should amuse the adults that have to accompany them. Reminiscent of Disney’s “Lilo & Stitch,” it is about the growing friendship between a human girl and a space alien as they deal a variety of issues that place the entire Earth in jeopardy.
Oh (voice of Jim Parsons) is a happy-go-lucky member of the Boov, an alien race whose chief trait seems to be running away. Deathly afraid of the Gorg, they flee from planet to planet, looking for some place to be safe. Unfortunately for humans, they take a very paternalistic attitude towards a planet’s native inhabitants, summarily removing all humans from around the globe and relocating them to Australia.
Due to a mistake, young Tip (Rihanna) has been left behind, separated from her mother (Jennifer Lopez) and living with her cat named Pig. Oh, unlike the other Boov, is very friendly, and invited everyone to a housewarming party–including, unfortunately, the Gorg. Now everyone is after Oh so they can get his password to rescind the invitation, and Captain Smek (Steve Martin) has ordered him “erased.” So Tip and Oh are on the run, Tip to find her mother and Oh to escape erasure.
The humor comes from the expected sources, but that doesn’t mean it’s not often fun. Oh and Tip have much to learn about each other’s species and ways, as when Oh asks if Tip keeps the cat for meat or milk, or is startled when he spontaneously starts tapping his (four) feet to her favorite music. As befits a movie based on a book geared to pre-teens (Adam Rex’s “The True Meaning of Smekday”) there’s a lot silliness, from Oh repairing Tip’s car with a frozen slush machine, to his experiences in human bathrooms.
Besides the clever script, the film’s visuals are appealing, from the Boov invasion of Earth to the aliens changing colors depending on their moods. The film also offers a number of positive messages including the importance of friends being honest with each other, and the bond between mother and daughter. The surprise showdown with the Gorg ties into these themes as well.
With pop stars Rihanna and Jennifer Lopez in the voice cast (and Rihanna offering several songs on the soundtrack), and comedy icons Steve Martin and Jim Parsons (the latter of TV’s “The Big Bang Theory”), there’s plenty of talent on hand to keep this simple story moving in an engaging fashion. Ultimately “Home” is about the importance of home and family, and how finding a place where you belong doesn’t always turn out as you might expect. It’s a message that should resonate with both young viewers and their families.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.