Home (2015)

(In French, Video on Demand, October 2015)  By now, the conventions of animated kids movies have been codified in an industry standard that only the daring or the foolhardy dare to ignore.  You can recognize the average middle-of-the-road animated feature by how well if hews to that formula: imaginative concept involving a bit of fantasy or science-fiction; a resolutely cheerful tone that still allows for a few moments of terror or sadness; a younger protagonist with fantastical friends; high-energy musical number and action sequences; and celebrity voices.  Home checks off all of these items twice.  It’s about a curiously dim-witted alien invasion that relocates all humans to dense custom suburbs in desert Australia, but it’s mostly about how a young teenager quests to reunite with her mother and understand an alien outcast who becomes her best ally.  Cats, broken syntax, the Eiffel tower and another alien race all complicate the plot, but by and large Home is about a girl trying to get back to her mom.  Having seen the film in French, I missed out on Jim Parson’s voice acting as the alien, but a few of Rihanna’s songs are featured in their original language.  (The broken language jokes are valiantly translated in French –although a few of them have to be back-translated in English to make sense.)  It’s an amiable and colorful film, definitely quirky enough to be interesting for adults, while being good-natured and funny enough for the younger set.  I’ll note that alien invasions are, by now, such a familiar SF concept that the film can dispense of the invasion sequence in a few minutes and then take place entirely after the event. (The film also gets to play a bit with the idea of alien invaders, all in the service of a non-violent film)  The standout sequence of the film is an imaginative action sequence featuring a levitating Eiffel tower being thrown off-balance and scratching a bit of the Parisian landscape.  Home does not manage to make enough of its elements to propel itself in the front-row of animated features: it’s a by-the-numbers affair, amusing but unremarkable.  That’s not necessarily bad, but there are plenty of other similar features to take up your time if you’re in the mood for that kind of thing.

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