In the immortal words of Jim Carrey: “How was your weekend?” For the new DreamWorks film, Home, it was a very good weekend indeed. As of this writing, Home has raked in $54 million and is the #1 movie in the U.S. — despite some naysayers‘ predictions. This is the studio’s highest non-sequel opening since 2009’s Monsters vs. Aliens. And it is daughter approved:
“Daddy. This movie is official.”
When we first saw the previews, we were stunned that a curly-haired brown girl was on screen. She was rendered like a person of color, and not a white animated person darkened to an approximation of what the animators thought a person with African skin tone and features should look like.
But if you didn’t see any of the trailers, you might have had a very difficult time finding out that the co-lead was a little brown-skinned girl with curly hair and green eyes. I’m not sure who DreamWorks got to run the media campaign for this film, but it felt like they made it their sacred duty to hide the fact that the co-lead was a girl of color, and that this is the most multi-cultural/multi-ethnic animated film I have ever seen — possibly ever made.
There were so many POCs that you knew that this wasn’t a Pixar film.
The Boovs, a race of gelatinous cowards who speak in a weird cadence, are on a near-constant search for a home. Sometime in their past, the leader of the Boovs, Captain Smek (voiced by the legendary Steve Martin) attended a peace summit with the menacing Gorg. And true to Boov character, Captain Smek becomes unnaturally afraid and makes a hasty exit. On his way out he steals what seems to be an important rock — dubbed the “shusher” — and uses it as an artifact of his governance. This event leads to the Gorg and the Boorv in a perpetual state of chase and run. Whenever the Boorv settle on a planet, the Gorg come along and chase them away, destroying the plane afterwards.
The Boov set their sites on Earth as their new home. And this is where the colonization kicks in. The Boov, in a very gentle way, literally vacuum up the human inhabitants and deposits them in what can only be described as a reservation. This reservation looks like pure Disneyland fakery.
As the Boov settle into their new Earth home, one of their number, Oh (voiced with nuance and wit by Jim Parsons of The Big Bang Theory), decides to send an email inviting other Boov’s to his housewarming party. This e-vite is accidently sent throughout the galaxy — the scene depicting this is hilarious — possibly letting the bad guys know where the Boov are. Oops. Bad, bad Oh. Oh is an anomaly. He isn’t a natural coward. He has an inquisitive and loving nature that causes him to make mistakes — something the Boov abhor. He’s an outcast on multiple levels.
When he meets Gratuity “Tip” Tucci (voiced by Rihanna, who does a splendid job) another outcast, as she is the only human not to be relocated, an interesting dialogue ensues. Tip is separated from her mom, Lucy Tucci (Jennifer Lopez who sounded very dialed in to the role), and is trying to find her. She enlists Oh to help her locate her mother, but they have to interrupt his sent email and possibly save the Boov, and Earth.
Tip and Oh’s developing relationship directly and indirectly challenges everything he knows about his society and what he has been told about humans. The Boov have no notion of family, and when Tip continually refers to her mother and their relationship, it really illustrated just how far apart these two are. There conversations are touching, and a great analog about how to navigate cultural differences.
While there were some moments in the film that were borderline saccharine, the politics and seriousness of the subject matter was refreshing. The film treated children as if they were smart enough to handle some of the harsher truths of our world. Yes, there were kid gloves. It is a film for kids. But the fact that the story actual explored colonization, displacement, anger, grudges, straw man leadership, usurpation of power, and atonement was wonderful. Of course it had a happy ending, but the ending did nothing to detract from the entertainingly heavy lifting the film did prior to its conclusion.
I heartily endorse Home for kids 10 years old or younger.
Scoring the film on the following scale — 0 being horrible and 10 being amazing:
Animation: 10 (for Tip’s beautiful curls alone)
Music: 5 (some awful song choices and incidental music)
Misc: 10 (there are some wonderful sight gags and Tucci’s were able to rep Barbados)
Overall: 9 out of 10