Review

Quirky 'Home,' with Jim Parsons and Rihanna, keeps it too light

Betsy Sharkey
Los Angeles Times Film Critic
'Home' movie review: DreamWorks' animated 3-D film would be nothing without Jim Parsons

As a certain Boov, buoyantly voiced by that alien life force Jim Parsons, might say: Best silly ever is to be having in "Home."

The new animation 3-D pop from DreamWorks is breezy, sentimental and quirky. That it is also somewhat slight is only a minor bother. It helps that the extraterrestrial Boovs are a pretty relatable bunch. The aliens invading Earth in "Home" are best known for their habit of conflict avoidance at all costs, a trait they unknowingly share with so many of our species.

Though Parsons' brand of comedy has long made the nerd life lovable on the critically acclaimed CBS sitcom "The Big Bang Theory," the actor takes humanizing — his particular specialty — to an entirely different fun zone as a bumbling Boov named Oh, as in "Oh no" or "Ohhhhhh."

It seems this Oh is the conflict most Boov want to avoid. Parsons, on the other hand, has the opposite effect. "Home," quite frankly, would be nothing without him. This is the actor's first time lending his voice to an animated film, and I expect there will be many more if he chooses.

Based on Adam Rex's popular children's book "The True Meaning of Smekday," "Home" was adapted for the screen by Tom J. Astie and Matt Ember, the duo behind the not-zany-enough "Get Smart" with Steve Carell. Tim Johnson of "Antz" — that animated film most famous for featuring Woody Allen's voice — directs.

A mix of primary colors and pastels fill the film's bright palette, while the style of the animation itself is stripped-down simple. As to the creature features, the Boovs look like a cross between an inflated surgical glove and those other animated farcicals, "Despicable Me's" minions. Boovs are blue (minions are yellow) and subject to embarrassing color changes based on their emotions. Deception is nearly impossible. Nearly.

Their current planet is being destroyed by the dreaded Gorg, led by a menacing metal-plated giant that looks as if it wandered in from a nearby "Star Trek" stage by mistake. The beef between the Boov and the Gorg is tied to the theft of a small Gorg rock that now sits atop Captain Smek's scepter.

Smek is the leader of the Boovs and voiced by Steve Martin, working himself into a wild and crazy lather whenever possible. As the film opens he's taken desperate measures, ordering all Boovs to migrate immediately to Earth. To make room, mankind's removal is in process; vacuumed up by giant Boov spaceships, humans are relocated to desolate areas around the globe that look like the latest housing sub-subdivision you'd find in a Willy Wonka fever dream.

Issues with the humans and threats of another Gorg invasion propel most of the action.

On the human side there is young Gratuity Tucci (Tip for short), voiced by the very in-demand Rihanna. She and her cat were missed during the main relocation sweep, while her mom, Lucy (Jennifer Lopez), was not. Tip commandeers her mom's car and sets out to find her.

Meanwhile, Oh has made another major mistake, sending his housewarming email blast to the galaxy, and thus it is on its way to the Gorgs. In a flash, Oh and Tip team up. Oh is hoping to save the day, and Tip won't stop until she finds her mother. Or "mymom" as Tip and Oh refer to her.

Thanks to Boov technology, Oh retrofits mymom's car so that it is powered by slushy machines that enable the car to fly. It also serves to give the film some of its more fanciful animated scenes as Oh and Tip head toward Boov headquarters, right under the Eiffel Tower.

Their journey and the requisite bonding ought to be more engaging. Still, it's nice to have Rihanna on board. That raspy voice suggests a preteen much wiser than her years, but it also means the singer's Caribbean-infused hip-hop rock sound sets much of the beat.

The heartstring-tugging ballad "Feel the Light," meant to be the movie's showstopper, is delivered by J. Lo., which seems fair since the singer-actress is given so little to do in the film but be lost.

Tension is one of "Home's" biggest issues. There just isn't nearly enough of it. Story is another. Even a kids' movie needs more complexity and more invention. When the big bang of an ending arrives, it plays more like a whimper. Which might prompt Oh to muse: Even best-ever sillies have bumps.

Twitter: @BetsySharkey

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'Home'

MPAA rating: PG, for mild action and some rude humor

Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes

Playing: In general release

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