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Home (2015)

The AFA team has been raving about DreamWorks Animation's new movie for ages. When I finally got a chance to see it, it took my breath away.

For the first DreamWorks movie starring a female lead, the studio pulled out all the stops. Here we have a funny, engaging story filled with diverse characters, led by a strong, independent, and stubborn female lead who is also a person of color. And, importantly, the plot of the movie has nothing to do with the fact that she is female or a POC. It has everything to do with courage, passion, and friendship.

When a race of aliens called the Boov choose Earth as their new home, they pack up all the humans and move them to an "ideal human community." The Boov then move into their new assigned homes, including our protagonist, Oh, who decides to throw a housewarming party. When he accidentally sends the evite to everyone in the universe, the Boov high command, led by Captain Smek, send out a search party to track him down. Oh's evite will go to everybody - including the Gorg, the Boov's arch-rivals from whom they have been attempting to flee. 

Meanwhile, due to a mistake involving a cat, a girl named Gratuity "Tip" Tucci was left behind when her mother (and everyone else) was abducted by aliens. Now, after escaping the new Boov resident of her New York City apartment, Tip sets off on a quest to find her mom. After meeting the hiding Oh, she makes an uneasy agreement to take him out of town if he helps with her search. Will the two be able to stop Oh's evite in time? Will they find Tip's "Mymom," as Oh calls her? And will this unlikely pair end up being friends in the end? 

At one level, this movie pokes fun at the "modern," tech-savvy way of living. The Boov are, as a race, overly interested in privacy; they try to avoid interacting with others in person, instead using smartphone-like video chatting. Of all the Boov, Oh is the only one who actually wants to hang out and talk to people. He is open and welcoming, and, for a Boov, far too social. He is called Oh because whenever he tries to interact with others his "friends" exasperatedly say "Oh, it's you." Oh's welcoming party is another example of this friendly instinct. Having just arrived on a new planet, he wanted to meet his neighbors. But, as the other people on his floor tell him, the Boov don't have neighbors.  They are all lost in their own technological world. 

As Oh becomes friends with Tip, he finds that humans have a lot to offer. Even though Tip uses technology all the time (even taking selfies on her smartphone!), she does it for enjoyment or to enhance her non-virtual relationships. Her cat and her mom are much more important to her than her cell phone. In fact, when we see her using her cell phone in the movie she is usually watching videos of her mom. Tip uses technology to help her deal with missing her mom. The Boov, even the uniquely friendly Oh, have trouble understanding this emotional openness. Oh instinctively recognizes it as a good thing, and tries to learn more about it from Tip. 

Another valuable lesson is the importance of facing challenges rather than running away from them. The Boov, led by their grand leader Captain Smek (self-described as the king of running away), have been fleeing from their arch-enemies the Gorg for a long time. It seems that Earth is just the latest of the planets that they have taken over, hoping to hide and to start a new life. Oh has internalized these ideas, and any time the odds are against him he thinks it is better to run away.

Tip is just the opposite. She will stop at nothing to track down her mom, despite all the obstacles in her way. When Oh tells her that the best way to find a human is to go to the Boov central command, she doesn't even hesitate. Oh finds this courage bizarre. But as he sees how these risky actions make things better in the end, he learns that it is better to confront challenges than to run from them. 

Overall, Home is a beautifully animated movie with its own charm. Oh and Tip are quite the odd couple, but their friendship seems genuine and unique.

The Boov's speech and actions are filled with amusing quirks, which provides much of the comedy. For example, they consider themselves champions at deciding what is useful and what is not. Useful: footballs (delicious!) and car tires (fashionable!). Not useful: bicycles or pianos.

They also talk in a nonsensical jabber (such as "can I come in the out?" or "what is the purpose of your face?") that is extremely endearing, especially when said in a normal, adult tone of voice by Jim Parsons (the voice of Oh).

Home is a brilliant movie that definitely deserves to be counted as one of the best DreamWorks films.

Further reading: Read this detailed article from Vox about the not-so-implicit subtext about colonialism in Home.

Home is currently in theaters.