There’s a point in Home where Tip, a young girl voiced by pop singer Rihanna who’s in search of her mother, turns on the radio. And what’s playing? A Rihanna song.
That should give you an idea of how much Home plays up its celebrity casting. Unlike its chief rival in animation, Pixar, DreamWorks has leaned heavily on its casting of celebrities for their films, and with a core cast of five, Home leans especially hard on the personalities of three of them to drive the film.
Taking the lead in this film is Oh, an alien played by The Big Bang Theory‘s Jim Parsons. Oh is a member of the Boov, an alien race traveling from planet to planet in an attempt to outrun the Gorg, another alien race that’s chasing them. After they land on Earth, the Boov force all humans into a crowded but not unpleasant refugee camp in Australia. That includes Tip’s mother (Jennifer Lopez), but not Tip, who inadvertently is blocked by her cat from the Boov scanner. Meanwhile, the Boov move into housing on Earth, and Oh – who is despised by the rest of the Boov, hence his name (think “Oh no” or “Oh bother”) – tries to invite anyone who will come to his housewarming party. The problem is, he sends the e-vite to his entire address book, including the Gorg.
Oh’s mistake, of course, only makes the rest of the Boov hate him more. As he runs from the Boov, Oh runs into Tip and agrees to help her find her mom. This is where the film works best – with Tip and Oh in what is essentially a buddy road trip film. Oh is a more kid-friendly version of Parsons’ Sheldon character, in that he doesn’t have a grasp on how other humans interact, and he interacts with Tip accordingly. If you’re an adult watching this film, whether you find Oh annoying or not will likely come down to your thoughts on two otherwise unrelated characters: Sheldon and Jar Jar Binks. If you hate both, you probably won’t care for Oh.
To her credit, Rihanna brings some depth to Tip, and while it does feel a little lazy to pull from an actor’s real life in creating a character, the film deserves some credit for giving Tip the hair, skin color and general backstory (Tip is Barbadian, like Rihanna) that doesn’t normally come in an animated kids’ movie – let alone most films in general.
Unfortunately, the film can’t stay in this mode forever. As the movie zooms toward the climax, it shifts into a larger scope that threatens to destroy Earth. It doesn’t really work with what came before. Instead of continuing to focus on Tip and Oh, the film shifts more toward the Gorg and the Boov’s Captain Smek (Steve Martin), only bringing Tip and Oh back when it comes to actually saving the day. The final outcome is predictable, and a bit of a letdown, though the film does open up the doors for more adventures with Tip and Oh in the future. If the film finds an audience, that may be something worth exploring.