Talking Movies

March 16, 2015

Home 3-D

Jim Parsons lends his voice to a most curious animated feature about an alien forced to team up with a human child on a road-trip.

Home-1

Oh (Jim Parsons) is a well meaning Boov who has an unfortunate habit of making hilarious mistakes. Captain Smek (Steve Martin), the leader of the Boov, has an equally ingrained habit of stealing planets as he leads the Boov in their flight from the vengeful Gorg. Smek’s latest conquest is Earth. Thus Oh is kicking it back in a human apartment. When he sends an email to his best friend Kyle (Matt Jones), a traffic cop whose inability to leave his post subjects him to Oh’s chatter, he accidentally cc’s the entire universe. Including the planet-destroying Gorg… Oh runs away from punishment and encounters Tip (Rihanna), who hates the Boov for kidnapping her mother Lucy (Jennifer Lopez) and interning her in Australia with all the other humans. Can Oh and Tip work together to rescue Lucy and un-invite the Gorg?

Yes, the fate of the world rests on cracking Oh’s password and unsending an email. Because, you see, Oh is not like the other Boov; who all follow Captain Smek’s instruction that the password for all accounts should be ‘password’ – to avoid just such screw-ups. Oh is an individualist, because the most important thing, above all, is to just be yourselfzzzzz… Apparently this is the only moral any animated film is capable of containing in this century. Which wouldn’t matter that much except that director Tim Johnson (Antz) and Get Smart screenwriting team Matt Ember & Tom J Astle add almost nothing for adults in adapting Adam Rex’s children’s book The True Meaning of Smekday. And, given that Johnson successfully transposed Woody Allen’s shtick into animated form back in 1998, and that Get Smart had its moments, that’s quite surprising.

Not nearly as surprising though as the relevance of another work of late 90s CGI: Jar Jar Binks. Can you imagine sitting thru a film where nearly everyone talked like Jar Jar? Well, minus the faux accent, Home, courtesy of the jumbled-up English the Boov employ, is pretty much that film. And it grates… Rihanna shamelessly using the movie as a giant music video for song after song is less annoying because it’s explicable. Who thought garbling grammar would be inherently funny? As far as comedy goes Martin has some fun with his vainglorious role (“I admire your cowardice”), particularly one routine with Parsons (“But you might!”), but Parsons curiously stays firmly entrenched in his anti-social Sheldon Cooper rut rather than trying to stretch himself outside his TV show; similar decisions during 24’s run effectively destroyed Kiefer Sutherland’s acting range.

Home is a film for very young children, as its animated slapstick and Rihanna-heavy soundtrack might prove mildly diverting; but for parents it’s likely to be quite a slog.

2/5

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December 3, 2011

The Big Year

Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson star in a pleasant tale of competitive bird-watching that just stubbornly refuses to take true comedic flight.

Martin plays the retired CEO of a major company who’s trying to belatedly achieve a ‘big year’, in which he would spot more species of birds in North America in a single calendar year than any other birder. That means spotting more than 700 types of bird. This involves trekking all over the continent on hot tips to spot rare birds like the great snowy owl or the pink-footed goose, travelling to the farthest island tip of Alaska (nearer to Tokyo than Anchorage) for a week to see the Asian wildlife landing there, and chasing major storms that will cause migrating birds to touch down unexpectedly on the Gulf Coast. The lengths to which the birders go results in a number of nicely rendered stampedes and diabolical schemes and tricks as well as a charming travelogue of some of America’s prettiest landscapes.

Martin is supported in his absurd quest by his wife, but perpetually harassed by requests from his former lieutenants to head back to NYC to help them with deals. Wilson, by contrast, plays the world-record holder Bostick who is testing the patience of his wife Rosamund Pike to its breaking point. She’s taking hormones to try and conceive, but he’s never around as he’s trying to better his own record to secure his place in the history books as the undisputed best birder of all time. Black is the singleton of the trio, a divorced loser who wants to achieve something with his life, and is aided by his mother Dianne Wiest arranging his travel schedule even as his father Bryan Dennehy despairs of the stupidity of his son’s choice of goal. The adorable Rashida Jones crosses his path from time to time as a fellow birder who he just can’t summon up the courage to ask out.

It’s a delight to see Anjelica Huston crossing swords with her regular Wes Anderson colleague Wilson, over his mutiny on her birding ship in his previous ‘big year’ quest to see a rare bird rather than the whale she was showcasing to tourists. It’s also amusing to see a veritable pantheon of TV comedy actors including Joel McHale from Community, Kevin Pollak, CSI Miami’s Byron quoting British Person in the lab, Network head Jack and the demented impressionist from Studio 60, as well as Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory as a blogger causing trouble. However, this movie while big hearted, solidly acted, perfectly structured, and nicely subversive of the philosophy of winning at all costs, just doesn’t have enough jokes. There’s one sublime gag but mostly you’ll just chuckle and smile.

The verdict must rest with the good doctor, Samuel Johnson: “Worth seeing? Yes. Worth going to see? No.”

2.5/5

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