It may well be the nicest alien invasion ever, when the blobby Boov come to planet Earth in their adorable bubble spaceships. They’re hiding out from a nasty, spiky predator and they mean us no harm, but we are thoughtlessly and inconveniently occupying their new cities, so the entire human race gets evacuated — in an involuntary way — to Australia, to a new settlement that looks rather like Truman Burbank’s hometown of Seahaven. Pleasant on the surface, perhaps, but definitely with an undercurrent of creepy, even apart from the whole alien-invasion thing.
How do seven billion humans feel about this? What sort of counterstrike are they planning? Home is not about this, so never mind. Home is about an oddball Boov, Oh (the voice of Jim Parsons: The Muppets, The Big Year), who has to do a thing in order to get back into the good graces of his fellow Boov — led by Captain Smek (the voice of Steve Martin: The Big Year, It’s Complicated) — and his new friendship with a human girl, Tip (voice of Rihanna: Annie, This Is the End), who escaped the re-city-ing and is now desperate to find her mom, Lucy (the voice of Jennifer Lopez: The Boy Next Door, Ice Age: Continental Drift). (Tip is presented in a confusing manner, appearing and acting like a young woman in her late teens or early 20s, but quite late in the film we discover she is a seventh-grader, and so only 12 or 13. Which is very disconcerting.) This is a movie that is cute on its shallowest surface — the one where the pastel Boov shift colors with their changing emotions, and where a human automobile can be retrofitted with alien tech to become a junk food-powered flying car — but is curiously unable to engender much in the way of actual awe at its visuals, which are trying very hard to be awesome. This is a gentle parable about friendship and playing nice with others and no-place-like-home in which the height of wit is toilet humor and knock-knock jokes.
So, basically, Home is science fiction with training wheels: cute aliens, an apocalypse in which no one dies. Let’s suck the kiddies into geekery at an early age! I approve of this, of course, but the grownup geek that I am finds little appealing here. This isn’t a movie that has anything even accidental to say to adult fans of animated genre adventures — we’ve seen this all before — and features a few sci-fi head-scratchers, too. Like how Oh doesn’t fit into the Boov hivelike conformity: once he moves into his new Earth apartment, he wants to have a party with his new neighbors, which horrifies his fellow Boov, because Boov do not recognize the concepts of partying or neighbors. So where did Oh get these ideas from? It’s a way to introduce kids to the concept that culture is not immutable, though. I guess. Better is the Boov’s mangling of English, which reaches an endearing apex with Oh, and which might cause some little ’uns to think about language and communication from a new angle, one that takes away unspoken presumptions (even if some of Oh’s provocative misconceptions don’t seem entirely consistent).
The book this is based on — The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex — sounds pretty fresh and cool, with at least a smidge of snarky commentary about modern American culture. There’s none of that in Home, which seems unironically constructed of bits cherry-picked from much livelier movies (the Boov are kinda like Despicable Me’s Minions, though Captain Smek reminded me a lot of Madagascar’s King Julien). Though that does become an unintentional commentary on how bland ripoffs seem to dominate pop culture. Ahem.