EVOKING "The Wizard of Oz," "Annie" and "E.T.," "Home" is about the yearning for the comforts of family. But this kiddie sci-fi adaptation doesn't quite live up to its evocative title.
Based on Adam Rex's best-selling children's book The True Meaning of Smekday, "Home" is essentially a road-trip buddy comedy about a little girl looking for her mom and a lonely alien looking for a friend. When the Boov, a color-changing alien species that's perpetually on the run from the evil Gorg, invade Earth, leader Capt. Smek (voiced by Steve Martin) renames Earth "Smekland," relocating all humans to amusement-park compounds in Australia.
The 12-year-old heroine, Gratuity "Tip" Tucci (singer Rihanna), is accidentally left behind as her single mother (Jennifer Lopez) is whisked away. Alone with her feisty pet cat, Tip sets out in the family car in hopes of finding her mom, teaming up along the way with Oh (Jim Parsons), a misfit Boov who's a wanted criminal after sending a party invite to every creature in the universe - including the Gorg. If the Boov don't stop that email from going through, the Gorg will arrive and destroy the planet.
The character of Tip was obviously written for Rihanna. Like the pop star, Tip is beautiful, from Barbados and multiracial, so it's an understatement to say Rihanna was perfectly cast. She holds, unsurprisingly, the biggest appeal of the film, not only contributing her cultural background and voice acting to the project, but also her music. Several of the songs on the soundtrack are Rihanna's, with Lopez contributing a ballad as well. Oh is basically an alien version of Sheldon from "The Big Bang Theory."
Fans of Rex's books will be similarly disappointed that all the pop-culture references have been edited out of the screenplay. And only fans of the book will get the inside joke of casting Lopez. (In "Smekday," Oh's character is called J.Lo.)