Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Short version: It was sweet, touching, and funny. It also was decidedly aimed at a young audience, with very silly world-building, a peculiar but appropriate story structure, and no subtlety. It was much closer to Horton than Shrek. Adults will likely enjoy the first viewing, but won't find much for repeat viewings.

I am very much a fan of Disney over Dreamworks. I feel like I should make that caveat up front, to expose any biases.

That said, I did enjoy Home. It was sweet, really nailed the emotional beats (the reunion with Mom was particularly well done), and it had a fun look to it. It also had some fun action thrown in, and a couple good lessons.

From a technical perspective, I don't have a great deal to say. The animation was well done, but nothing ground breaking or awe inspiring. Naturally, Rihanna provided the bulk of the soundtrack, but it was handled well and the songs actually fit the mood. Rihanna and Jim Parsons did good work as the voices. I feel like Parsons was held back by essentially playing Sheldon again, but with less fire.

The story was interesting. It definitely broke from the standard three act formula. There were several moments that took me off guard, because climaxes and twists were coming in the wrong order. But, looking back, I noticed something. If you break the movie down into 20-30 minute chunks, each one has a satisfying arc. And that's about how long young children are likely to stay engaged. So it's more like it was written as a mini-series, just without actually pausing for credits between episodes. Very clever.

There were lessons. Oh so many lessons, as is to be expected from this kind of movie. The importance of family. Never give up. Being different is okay. But there were two that stood out for me as kind of important. First, the girl is smart. And not just generically smart, but specifically smart in math. There's even a scene where the head alien says, "You couldn't possibly figure it out, you're a girrrrl." So she goes all girl power and bursts his bubble. Very nice role model snuck in there.

The other lesson is hammered in, but most kids won't get it. The aliens invade. The head alien tells his people that the poor, backward humans are so benighted that they will be grateful to be conquered and cared for. Oh, the protagonist alien, believes this propaganda until he actually meets a human. The parallels to so much Euro-centric history, from the Roman Empire to the Age of Exploration/colonization and all the way up the recent American invasion of Iraq, are strikingly obvious. Indigenous people, no matter what condition they live in, never want to be invaded. Will kids grasp that? Probably not. Will it sit in the back of their head and itch when they learn about the fate of Native Americans in school? I really hope so.

My general recommendation is that this is a good movie if you have nothing else in the queue. If it comes on ABC Family, you should watch it. But there is nothing here that warrants rushing out to see it.

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