Some of the best children’s films have educational value without making viewers feel like they had to learn anything. “Home” is such a goofy, animated introduction for kids to the time-worn genres of road-buddy films and outlaws-on-the-run flicks, you may overlook its fascinating lesson.
An alien race called the Boov (a combination of the minions of “Despicable Me” and the aliens from “Toy Story”) is fleeing from planet to planet in fear of the Gorg, a rival alien force that destroys wherever the Boov has chosen to live.
The Boov are led by a flamboyant leader, Captain Smek (Steve Martin), whose arrogant charisma distinguishes him from his automaton followers. Smek wields authority with a “Shusher” wand, which he beats over the heads of any underling he wants to shut up. (I regret to inform you that the wand is actually being marketed as a toy. Great film, horrid toy idea.)
Oh (Jim Parsons), whose name originated from the disappointed reaction of any Boov who hears he’s arrived, is a socially inept dolt who worships Smek but can’t blend in with groupthink. Oh’s alienation (pun acknowledged) leads to a disastrous mistake when his house party invitation is sent to everyone who has an interstellar communication device. Including the Gorg.
Once Smek and the Boov collective find out Oh is responsible, he runs off and meets another terrified person, Tip Tucci (Rihanna).
Tip, an adolescent immigrant, is the sole human survivor of a swift Boov abduction which moved the human race to Australia in housing colonies shaped amusingly like crop circles. Tip is looking for her mother and Oh convinces her he can help, but he’s really just desperate for her getaway vehicle. He’s so desperate, in fact, that Oh’s alien genius transforms her mom’s crashed car into something fueled from the nearby convenience store.
The humor envelops. The computer-generated animation has some cute functional touches such as the way the Boov change color based on their emotion. The vocal acting is wonderful.
If the film’s closing messages of love and acceptance seem cliché, don’t forget the angle of an alien invasion, the fear of attack, and the resulting human relocation — assuming people are OK with that. Children will read those same stories in history books when they grow up.
• Elementary-school-aged children.
• Rihanna’s music fans, for the score.
• Steve Martin fans who pine for his return to comedy.