Dark animation: ‘Home’
by Payton Pruitt
DreamWorks has been a com- mon producer for films in among my column. There is certainly a reason for that. I have found that, even when given lighter subjects, they still manage to work in darker themes that help give kids a taste of adulthood. Their work shows that the world can be a scary place at times, but that doesn’t mean they should lose hope for the future. “Home” is their most recent release and it most certainly fol- lows this theme.
The set-up of the film is very interesting – an alien race called the Boov is seeking a new place to call home, so they find the Earth and decide to make it their own.
However, they don’t recklessly invade with the intention to destroy. It turns out the Boov blindly follow their leader, Captain Smek, who is a massive coward. What they end up doing is finding every human on the planet and relocat- ing them to a set area of the world where they are to live happily, while the Boov take up the rest of the planet. One alien in particular, Oh, is incredibly excited about the new move and the chance to make friends with his fellow kind, who find him to be a big nuisance. This is because, of all the Boov in existence, Oh is known for being clumsy, and for making the most mistakes which is highly frowned upon in their culture.
At the same time, one human was left behind in the relocation, a girl named Gratuity Tucci, known as “Tip” to her friends. She finds Oh and takes him with her with the intention of using him and his knowledge of Boov technology to help her find her mother that she had been separated from in the relocation process. From there it’s a story of bonding and learning to understand those who are different than you.
The film was made in the DreamWorks animation studios, and directed by Tim Johnson, whose past work in directing includes “Antz,” “Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas” and “Over the Hedge.” He was also one of the executive producers for “How to Train Your Dragon.” Although his work in directing is spread out over the years, I find many of these films to have some underrated touches that many people don’t quite remember from the first time they’ve seen the film, with plenty of adult and family themes for everyone to enjoy.
One thing about the film and its characters that I especially enjoy is that it does have a ground-breaking touch in creating the first Dream- Works film with a black female protagonist. Although we don’t hear much about Tip’s backstory, we do find out that she had moved to the United States from Barbados, is a rather exceptional student and didn’t have a very strong relation- ship in this new land with any other students; but that only helped her to grow closer to her mother.
Another thing I appreciate about the characters and their design is Oh and his people’s ability to change color with their emotions. As someone diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, it’s not easy for me to clearly read the emotions on the face of another person, which is one of the many reasons why I adore animated films. With Oh I was able to clearly see any emotional turmoil he was having, and I was able to understand why, and it made him that much more lovable of a character to me.
The movie’s soundtrack is very lovely too, with some songs by Rihanna alongside compositional pieces by Lorne Balfe. Balfe has a rather whimsical way of playing out the music for the scenes, but they all seem to fit within it rather. They also help to give more palpable emotion to different moments. Balfe’s former work in soundtrack composition can be heard in mov- ies like DreamWorks’ “Megamind” and “Penguins of Madagascar.” It can also be heard in the well-known video game series of “Assassin’s Creed” and “Skylanders.” Though he didn’t compose these pieces alone, his work still shows and the music is still lovely.
One of the problems with the soundtrack, however, is that many of the songs during the most important moments are sung by Rihanna. I personally have nothing against her music, but as it plays through different scenes it does feel as though the movie is being used as promotion for her music. There is one moment that is very powerful on its own where they play one of her songs, but I feel that particular moment would have been better emphasized through a compositional piece rather than a pop song.
I won’t dare spoil this film for you and I highly suggest you all go to see it in theaters while you can. The film touches at the heart with sweet moments between Oh and Tip, as well as the film’s conclusion where everything seems to come together. I highly recommend seeing it and giving DreamWorks some much needed support as well as seeing the charming characters of Oh and Tip in the film.