Dir: Tim Johnson. Animation with the voices of: Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Steve Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Matt Jones. U cert, 94 min
Disney’s Big Hero 6 may have pipped DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon 2 at this year’s Oscars, yet the latter studio has arguably displayed greater consistency of late, smart gagwriting buoying even their holiday filler (Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Penguins of Madagascar) above a rising tide of 3D product. What, then, happened with new release Home? It has a fun-sounding premise (an alien invasion of Earth), and a veteran director in Tim Johnson (Antz, Over the Hedge), and still makes for a most underwhelming matinee. Perhaps everyone was saving themselves for the forthcoming Minions; savvier parents may consider doing likewise.
Its single best joke flies by early, with the revelation that Oh (voiced by The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons), head coward of chameleonic aliens the Boov, is so named for the disappointed reaction his presence engenders. There’s a zappiness about the invasion itself, which relocates humanity to massive ballpools in Australia: the kind of subjugation any fan of sun and fun might abide. It’s Oh who spoils the party, CC-ing a birthday evite to the entire galaxy, and thereby alerting the Boov’s mortal enemies to their whereabouts; subsequently exiled, he encounters the one human left behind – Tip (Rihanna), a young Barbadian seeking her mom.
Tip’s quest is template, and not invulnerable to sentiment; where the Penguins spin-off pursued big, stupid bellylaughs, Home is clearly aiming for U-rated cute. Yet it never gets its lines of approach right. The characterisation’s slightly off, for one: with his cinnamon-bun ears and wheedling voice, the shapeshifting Oh’s a cross between Lena Dunham and Jar Jar Binks – an acquired taste, to say the least. And while Tip provides another step forward for onscreen representation, bum-flashing popstrel Rihanna makes a curious choice as innocent; she has, however, tossed several filler songs into those montages by which Johnson strives to plug the copious narrative gaps.
The animators keep it busy and colourful without ever seducing the eye: even a set-piece involving an inverted Eiffel Tower passes without generating a truly memorable image. Mostly, Home resembles that standardised fodder now routinely pitched at easily distracted youngsters: all but indistinguishable from the already bargain-binned Planet 51 and Escape from Planet Earth, it shrivels when set against DreamWorks’ own Monsters vs. Aliens from 2009. Animation has become a crowded field, and perhaps we shouldn’t always expect something out of this world, but this underdeveloped offering barely lifts itself off the drawing board. It’s very, very… oh.
Home is now playing in cinemas nationwide.