I’m feeling rather cranky this [Wednesday] evening, so rather than being a snapping turtle about everything, I’m going to talk about something fun that happened last week. I got to take my family (Mom, Schwester, niece and my three nephews) to go see Home in theaters. We’d been planning to go see it over Spring break – when it was released – but we ended up waiting.
First, let me start with this: if you love a good animated tale – regardless of whether or not you have children – go see Home. If you like Jim Parsons, go see Home. If you’re a sucker for funny, happy science-fiction, go see Home. If you’re Rihanna fan, go see Home. If you’re itching for a female-driven animated film and haven’t seen one since Brave, go see Home. If you loved Lilo & Stitch’s alien-out-water, Ohana-based-goodness like I do, go see Home.
In short, just go see Home.
I’m really hit or miss when it comes to Dreamworks animation, of the thirty-one films they’ve released, I’ve liked ten. I cannot stand the Shrek or Madagascar series (or the penguins) but I really enjoy Kung-Fu Panda and adore everything about How to Train Your Dragon. [I also really enjoy other stand-alone films like Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas and Road to El Dorado].
Home reminds me of all the good things I love about Dragon with a side of Stitch. Two misfits that – according to the laws of their own people – shouldn’t be friends, end up finding companionship in each other, despite prejudice that would otherwise keep them apart. I haven’t seen much made of this, but I enjoyed that the main humans character, Tip, was black [or possibly of blended heritage, I can’t remember if anything was said about her father]. It was part of her and it brought some lovely complexity to her character, but it didn’t define her.
She was also a misfit and an outsider – hailing from Barbados, which I thought was an excellent touch, considering Rihanna’s own background – and someone who didn’t fit into the land she’d moved to with mother. She’s funny, kind, brave and courageous without falling into the “strong young heroine” trope, because she has weaknesses and flaws too. She breaks down when misses her Mom and tends to take out her emotions on Oh, she blatantly follows the xenophobia she’s been taught and she’s rather aggressive. Lashing out in anger when she’s upset.
None of those traits were listed as criticism, in fact, they are part of what I liked best about Tip. Because she feels like a real teenager stuck in a hard situation. Rather than just holding her up as a black female role model, Dreamworks let her be her own self, to grow and change and learn. Which is exactly what they’ve already done with characters like Hiccup and Astrid. One of the other things that surprised me, was how much I enjoyed Rihanna’s acting and musical contributions. She really nailed Tip’s emotional range and gave her plenty of zing and sass without going overboard. I’d love to see her in more work like this.
As someone who enjoys her singles, but has never invested in a full album, I have a moderate familiarity with her musical work. I worried that, as can happen when singers voice characters, their music can over-saturate the movie. Apparently Rihanna worked with the production to put together the whole soundtrack, and I must say, she did a smash-up job. The music is loaded with tunes that fit the bubbly nature of the story to perfection, and were actually hard not to dance to in the theater
And then there’s Jim Parsons, who basically steals your heart from the trailer and doesn’t stop. I can’t imagine anyone else playing the lovable bumbling Boov named Oh. Throughout the movie he’s looking for a place to belong, stuck in a society that’s all about the fear of not fitting in. He reminds me of a small child who means well, but oftentimes causes more trouble than anything else.
He exudes a warmth, charm and whimsy that is not to be denied. And it’s not hard to see that the animation team might have used Parsons for inspiration in Oh’s design. Much like Tip, through the course of the story, he learns about the faults of his own nature and how to remedy them. Facing all of his fears to do the right thing when it counts the most. Oh’s transformation from hive-mind follower to a bright, lovable hero – as well as his connection to Tip – brought me to tears during the film’s final big moment. Prepare to need tissues. I’m not sure any animated film with a non-humans character has made me cry like that since Wall-E.
Home is a face-paced whimsical film with a deeper core than I’d expected. While on the surface it’s easy to attach shades of racism, immigration and xenophobia, there’s also a beautiful story of finding [and protecting] one’s family, digging deep for courage we might not think we have, accepting our true selves, and taking steps to do what’s right no matter the cost.
I recommend Home for fans of animated films, especially if you liked How to Train Your Dragon or Lilo and Stitch. Four stars. With a run time of 94 minutes, Home is rated PG for mild thematic elements.