"Home," it seems, isn't where the art is.
The first reviews have landed for DreamWorks' new animated tale about the unlikely friendship between an outcast alien invader (Jim Parsons) and the only girl on Earth to avoid being captured (Rihanna). The film marks new directions for the performers behind its lead voices, but critics say the movie they star in is overly familiar.
Variety's Peter Debruge quips of the film, which opens Friday, "Hey 'Home,' E.T. called — he wants his huggable-alien concept back." He goes on to call the movie "unimaginative and downright predictable by grownup standards, but bursting with elements sure to appeal to younger auds — including cutesy character design, quotable alien catchphrases and solid musical/vocal contributions from Rihanna and Jennifer Lopez."
On the plus side, Debruge says, Rihanna's performance "comes as a pleasant surprise, especially after 'Battleship.' Alternately vulnerable and strong, she supplies just the right degree of independence to Tip's personality."
The Hollywood Reporter's Michael Rechtshaffen writes, "Revisiting aspects of a number of movies that have preceded it, starting with 'Lilo & Stitch,' ['Home'] does manage to distinguish itself with some inspired voice casting," as Rihanna and Parsons "both manage to impress in their animation debuts."
Rechtshaffen adds that director Tim Johnson and writers Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember "keep the action humming along and the amusing bits reasonably entertaining, but they can't vanquish the prevailing feeling of deja vu."
The Telegraph's Mike McCahill laments, "The animators keep it bright and busy without ever seducing the eye: Even a set piece involving an inverted Eiffel Tower passes without generating a truly memorable image. Mostly, 'Home' resembles that standardized fodder now routinely pitched at easily distracted youngsters. … Animation has become a crowded field, and perhaps we shouldn't always expect something out of this world, but this underdeveloped offering barely lifts itself off the drawing board."
Mark Kermode of London's Observer calls "Home" a "noisily empty film." He adds, "The CG visuals are bright and shiny and the pace endlessly frenetic, but it's all as emptily overproduced as Rihanna's characterless pop soundtrack contributions. Steve Martin has fun as the pompous Captain Smek, but this remains little more than colorfully inoffensive."
The Irish Times' Donald Clarke writes, " 'Home' has an original, convincingly satirical concept at its heart, but much of the execution feels overly familiar. The cute invading aliens will remind many of less amusing Minions. The central relationship is very similar to that between Elliot and E.T. The trick, perhaps, is to shut out those memories and pretend you recognize nothing in near-vision."
Clarke does commend the "superb voice work" of Parsons ("weird in his precision") and Rihanna ("soothingly warm throughout"). "What a shame, then," he writes, "that the animation is so workaday and the final denouement so damply familiar."
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