“Home is where the heart is” – this idiom that’s as old as time infers that home is where your loved ones are. But what do you do when the ones you love aren’t at home, and your lonely heart is lost somewhere out in the world? “Turn your face towards the sun; let the shadows fall behind you. Don’t look back, just carry on, and the shadows will never find you.” That’s the answer Rihanna gives in her song “Towards the Sun,” written for DreamWorks’ latest cinematic work of art, “Home.”
Starring Rihanna, Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”), Jennifer Lopez, and Steve Martin (“The Pink Panther”), this movie is loosely based on Adam Rex’s book The True Meaning of Smekday. In both the book and the movie, the articulately illiterate alien race of Boov move to Earth and forceably relocate all the humans to Happy Humanstown.
In the chaos of the “mandatory evacuation” a human girl named Tip (Rihanna) is separated from her mom, and an annoying Boov named Oh (Jim Parsons) accidentally invites the entire galaxy to a house-warming party. Problem is, Oh also invited the Gorg, enemy of the Boov. The story revolves around the friendship-building journey of Tip and Oh as they try to unsend Oh’s e-vite and find Tip’s mom, all while discovering what it means to be human.
In its opening weekend “Home” grossed $52 million – DreamWorks’ most successful since “Madagascar 3” – largely due to the clout of the cast. Rihanna is the reason I paid money to see this movie in theaters. Not only did she lend her voice to the character of Tip, but she also wrote an entire concept album to accompany it. Rihanna’s “Dancing in the Dark,” “Towards the Sun,” and JLo’s “Feel the Light” play at intense emotional peaks in the story. When the dialogue (geared toward a young audience) falls short, the lyrics of her songs reconnect mature moviegoers to the storyline and add emotional depth and dimension to otherwise flat characters and plot.
So, what does it mean to be human? And, how many movies are going to ask this question before we agree on an answer? As evidenced by the emotionally irrational 13-year-old Tip, to be human is to be compassionate and considerate and to “run towards danger, no matter how low the probability of success is.” And as Oh eventually learns (not by reading his human manual but by spending time with Tip), being human also means making mistakes, which makes him more human than he realizes.
If you like the sound of the West Indian accent in Rihanna’s speaking voice or the awkwardly comedic undertones in Jim Parson’s voice, then you’ll definitely enjoy this film. If you need a PG movie for family movie night, this one isn’t half bad. And if you happen to be human by the “Home” definition, you will enjoy it too. After all, it never hurts to be reminded that home is where you make it and “being human is much more complicated than it says in [any alien] manual.”
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.