Some nice visual gags help lift Home, the new animated adventure from DreamWorks, above the routine, but not by much. Small fry will get a kick out of this ultimately heartwarming sci-fi tale, but their parental units won't find it especially memorable.
The premise — taken from Adam Rex's source novel, The True Meaning of Smekday — isn't bad: a race of marshmallow-shaped aliens called the Boov have to jump from planet to planet to escape their age-old enemy, the Gorg. The Boov are an amusing bunch of conformists, but they have no intestinal fortitude, having perfected the art of running away whenever the Gorg discover their latest hideout.
Our hero is a misfit Boov named Oh (voice of Jim Parsons), and after the Boov take over Earth (and relocate the residents to new theme-park style communities), he teams up with a lonely girl named Tip (Rihanna, who offers a few songs here), who just wants to be reunited with her mom (Jennifer Lopez, who also sings a bit). Tip is as self-reliant as the Boov are fraidy-cats.
Tip and her mom are from Barbados, so give the filmmakers points for offering a heroine of color.
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The story: Oh accidentally alerts the Gorg to the Boov's new home, and goes on the run, but winds up promising to help Tip find her mom. It's an excuse for a series of sight gags, often slapstick, and verbal wit of the groaner sort. One running joke involves novel uses for convenience story snacks — not a particularly fresh idea, but one that will tickle the youngest viewers.
I could have used less emphasis on Oh's idiosyncratic speaking style — he might have taken language lessons from The Hobbit's Gollum. On the other hand, casting Steve Martin as the blowhard Boov leader, Captain Smek, was a bright idea, and I'm assuming many of his riffs here were improvised. It's a kick to listen for echoes to Martin's other characters and routines.
It's a colorful and busy film that gives off plenty of heat and light aimed at short attention spans, but there's little here that's new or surprising or memorable. Lots of heat and light, but it vanishes when the curtain comes down.