Dreamworks in Crisis
I hate to say it guys but I’m calling it- Dreamworks time of death, March 2015. Let’s give a little bit of background. For years Dreamworks has been battling it out with Disney and Pixar scoring some hits with particularly the Shrek films being the apex of their financial success. They’ve also had creative victories like the How to Train Your Dragon series, Kung Fu Panda and Prince of Egypt. Unfortunately they have been unable to curtail costs so even seeming successes were actually studio failures.
Last year it all came to fruition with 3 releases. Mr Peabody and Sherman with a budget of 145 mil (ridiculous for a comedy like that) made 272 million at box office. This might seem pretty good but when you take into account theater shares and marketing they took a 57 million hit on it. Then they had How to Train Your Dragon 2, a healthy success, with budget of 145 million (see Sherman should not have cost as much as HTTYD2!) making 618 million. Most of these proceeds were overseas (over 400 million of it) and it was significantly less than its predecessor so on the whole a disappointment (total profit 107 million).
Then we had Penguins of Madagascar, a fun comedy which cost $132 million and made $367 million Sounds pretty good right? Nope that 132 doesn’t include incentive based pay to the actors! So in the end they took another 57 million hit on Penguins. This is after losing 87 million on Rise of the Guardians and 13.5 million for Turbo in 2013. As you can see whatever good Dragon did is quickly evaporated.
Then at the end of last year they closed their PDI animation studio laying off 1/3rd of their artists.
That’s where we get to their latest release, Home. I think many of us were hoping this could be a Frozen size savior for the studio but sadly it is far, far, from that. In fact, if I am honest it is closer to this years’ George Lucas offering Strange Magic than anything else. It cost $135 million to make and I have a hard time believing it will do better than Mr Peabody and Sherman which was actually pretty clever. So in other words another loss.
I’m grasping at straws to find things I liked about Home but there isn’t much.
The best thing I can say about home is that it is harmless. Kind of like Strange Magic there is nothing offensive or off putting. Your kids will be moderately entertained so if you need a babysitter you could do worse but that is about it.
Home is based on the book The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, which my sister says is quite brilliant. It is about an alien named Oh that is the ‘most special’ character in his entire race like we’ve seen in movies from Twilight to the Host to Harry Potter. What makes him unique? Well, he makes mistakes and likes to have friends and be happy. Not exactly defeating Lord Voldemort but we will go with it.
He is part of a race called the boovs who run away from their nemesis and conquer other planets. They have just conquered earth and sucked up all the humans relocating them all to Australia. I suppose if I had been more engaged I wouldn’t have been left asking so many questions about this basic premise. For example, why do the boov know enough about humans to build houses for every human family, evidently recreate hospitals, schools, and even an amusement park and yet they do not know something like ‘humans live in families and have a Mother and a Father’?
How do the boov know how to run everything in a city like New York and yet are eating paintings, footballs and using a hair dryer for an inhaler? How do they know how to work a power plant and yet the lights are always on? How are they planning on getting food in this land they have conquered and wouldn’t gathering all of the human race in one place be a really bad idea? Nothing like 6 billion humans that have mastered interstellar flight and atomic warfare all together on an island…especially for a race that is evidently so gun shy?
Also why does Oh drink gasoline, motor oil, eat plastic and yet is disgusted by a blue tablet and urine from a restroom? I think that is an attempt to be funny but it doesn’t really make sense so it didn’t make me laugh. It would have been more funny if he had loved the urine and blue tablet. I mean if we are stooping to that level isn’t that funnier?
I know I’m overthinking it but again it just shows how disengaged I was with the story and characters that I started asking these questions.
So our misfit Oh tries to throw a party for his new neighbors but nobody in his race likes him or parties (which again makes me ask how does he even know what a party is? And yet he has a banner, appetizers, the whole works..).
Nobody comes to his party and so he goes outside to try and get people to go but his ‘friend’ doesn’t want to so he sends him an ‘e-vite’ (these aliens still use email and internet just like us) but the email to the party he is currently having goes to the entire galaxy including their sworn enemy, a woefully undeveloped ‘bad guys with spaceship’ called the vrogs I think.
The leaders of the boov’s try to arrest Oh with the captain played by Steve Martin who is actually only in 3 scenes of the movie.
But Oh runs off before he can give the boov his password to stop the email. (Always bad in a movie when the entire plot could be resolved by a 3 minute conversation…). In his running he bumps into a girl named Tipp who was left behind by the human relocation and is trying to find her Mother. She is far too calm and collected for someone who’s entire race and Mother has been sucked up by aliens. Plus, her car has been hidden by trash. How did she know to do that? And why hasn’t the trash been sucked up by the unnecessary item balls? They are sucking up bikes wouldn’t they suck up her car? And would she have been the only human to escape? Wouldn’t it have been more interesting to have had a few that band together with Oh?
She is voiced by Rhianna and it is a terrible piece of voice casting. She sounds like a grown woman and I was never exactly sure how old she was supposed to be. She sounds like a grown up, looks like a child but can drive and yet she talks about getting an A in 8th grade geometry. At best it is completely bland.
Oh is voiced by Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parson and the two of them are the only characters in the movie for 90% of the film and he isn’t right for the part either. It just sounds too much like Sheldon which was distracting. But I have a hard time blaming him because the part was written a lot like Sheldon and didn’t give him much to work with. He’s socially awkward and oblivious most of the time. I like Big Bang Theory but I know it has its haters and they will definitely find the voicework very annoying but again I don’t think anything Parsons could have done would have saved the character.
Most of the movie is a road trip story full of road trip movie cliches. Tipp and Oh must go to Paris to enter the password (I guess no cell phones in this world even though the Boov have these little tablet things) and then to Australia to find Tipp’s Mother voiced by Jennifer Lopez who has maybe 3 lines in the movie.
There were about 6 kids in the theater with me and they laughed at a few bits of toilet humor but they seemed squirmy and disengaged.
A lot of people will want to compare this to Lilo and Stitch, a movie that grows on me the more I see it. Lilo and Stitch is not a perfect film but it is far superior to this mess. First of all Lilo is a much more complex character than we ever get from Tipp. She is strange but in interesting ways. We see her interacting with students and fighting with her sister. We see her crying and mourning her parents before Stitch is even introduced.
Stitch is also a consistent character. He is a wild creature and pretty mean throughout, to the point of frustrating me as a viewer. Here Oh is sometimes smart when the plot needs to be and other times stupid. He sometimes understands complex words and other times speaks in 2 word phrases. He’s whatever the plot needs him to be which makes it really boring and hard to root for.
I really did not care about Oh or Tipp’s journey because I knew exactly what was going to happen and the movie didn’t give me any reason except for telling us ‘people think I’m strange’… Lilo is pulling heads off of her dolls. We know she is strange and we are rooting for her because of it.
It’s also a little unclear if the Steve Martin character is intentionally lying to everyone about their enemy and the ‘shush stick’ or if he is just too stupid to know. If he is lying on purpose than he is a really bad alien and that sense of evil is never laid out at all. I mean this is Darth Vader bad if he is conquering planets and relocating everyone.
The lesson of the story is that ‘everyone makes mistakes’ and that you should ‘run towards your fears’ not away from them (I don’t know if I agree with that last one…). Again this is usually told to us not actually shown. Lilo and Stitch conquers weighty themes of family, grief, loss and it does it with the gravitas perhaps only Disney can muster. Plus, it looks so unique with the watercolors and the Hawaiian feel. Home looks anything but unique.
A movie like Penguins of Madagascar works because it was funny. The script was very clever that it could overcome a silly story. I’m not saying it was a masterpiece but it made me laugh. Same with Mr Peabody and Sherman. Home did not make me laugh one time.
Like I said at the intro if you take your kids they won’t be miserable. It’s harmless but I said the same thing for Strange Magic and that movie at least had voicework that made sense.
I’m sorry Dreamworks I want to help you out but I can’t in good conscience give this any higher than the D I gave Strange Magic. It just doesn’t deserve it. (This movie has 5 people listed in the voice cast. Why on earth did it cost $135 million to make? In contrast, Pixar’s Bugs Life with a huge cast cost $120 million!).
The music is by Rihanna and it is nice but feels like it is written for a different movie. It is dark and solemn when they are just flying across the ocean or walking around. It’s not nearly fun enough for this kind of movie (think Happy by Pharrell for Despicable ME 2. That made sense.). The whole Rihanna choice was just wrong all the way around. What a disappointment and the absolute worst timing for a Dreamworks dud.
If any of you see it let me know what you think.
Overall Grade- D, Content Grade- A
62 thoughts on “Home Review”
My interest in this film has always been low!
Yeah me too but always try to go into films with positive attitude because sometimes movies like Paddington really surprise me. Not in this case though. Too bad
I didn’t have any expectations for ‘Paddington’ and barely knew what it was about, but I really loved it!
Cool. I love the books and the trailer looked terrible so I was definitely not looking forward to it but then I heard such good buzz from England that it renewed my faith in the project. I loved it!
Yeah, the trailer looked atrocious. And I’ve never read any of these books, so I was pleasantly surprised.
It’s really too bad because my sister said the book of Home is great. Sigh…
Well, I’m seeing it tomorrow night. I’ll let you know what I think of it then. And who knows, it might be a successful horrible film like say Chicken Little was or something like that. But I guess we’ll see, eh?
It’s not aggressively awful like Chicken Little just cliched and forgettable. I think it may make Penguins money (in the 350 million range) but Dreamworks needs a 600 million type hit (Big Hero 6 made 660) and I would be stunned if it comes close to that. It will do better than Strange Magic bc it isnt January but I dont know that it really deserves too.
Do you have the movie pass? With the number of movies you see it would be worth it for you. I can send you an invite if you are interested.
Yes please, I would like that. Thanks Rachel!
What’s your email?
The email has been sent so check your spam to check it out. It could save you some money. 🙂
Great to know! Thank you so much Rachel! I appreciate it a lot.
So I went ahead and wrote about it after all because with all the bad reviews I wanted to post one good one. I think I kept it spoiler free. Will definitely be curious for your thoughts.
Disappointing. I didn’t see it but wasn’t impressed by the trailer. I do like Jim Parsons though.
It’s still out so you could see it. But I would take really little kids with you. I think they will enjoy it the most.
I just read the review for Do You Believe. Thanks so much for posting it!
You’re the best. I really appreciate all your support
Thanks! My friends and I just got done watching Home. Hate to break I to you, but I felt you were a little too harsh on this film. I’d go B- for this one. It may have had some Lilo & Stitch elements, but I’d say they did go sort of new with it. Also, I thought the party scene at the end was great too. Anyway, sorry you didn’t enjoy this one that much as well. Still, thanks for posting this review!
No problem. I’m always delighted when someone shares an alternate point of view. The Lilo and Stitch elements didn’t bother me. I just felt the world didn’t make sense and the characters didn’t engage me so I ended up asking a lot of questions. Like why is Oh sometimes brilliant and other times stupid? Why does he sometimes understand complex words and other times speaks in 2 syllable words? How could they know enough about humans to build an entire world of homes for them and not know they have mothers and fathers and families? How can they run a city and yet not know how to work a hair dryer? The script was just so lazy on things like that.
The voice casting was way off. It doesn’t make sense to have a 30+ woman voicing a little girl (or a teen I don’t know?) and the emotions didn’t draw me in.
Lilo and Stitch was so much richer emotionally and Lilo was actually different in recognizable ways. Aside from Tipp saying she was weird she seemed completely normal.
Anyway, I wouldn’t mind all these flaws if like Penguins it made me laugh but it didn’t.
But I’m glad you enjoyed it. That’s great.
If you give this a B- what would you give the Despicable Me movies? I am not that big a fan of those but they are way more original, funny and well cast than Home IMO.
Except for Madagascar 3, I have not seen any DreamWorks movies made after 2011. I actually saw a preview for this during The Big Bang Theory and I have no interest in seeing it. I remember The Animation Commendation had the same thought about Turbo and The Croods and then was exactly as disappointed as he thought he would be.
However, DreamWorks has 5 movies lined up for 2016-18, so I don’t think they’re dead yet.
But a lot of studios have gone under with a development slate lined up. Kung fu Panda 3 may be enough to keep it going but it definitely won’t ever be the competition to Disney it once was. There movies havent been that bad like Rise of the Guardians was good and made 300 million but the budgets are so out of whack and everything else so bad they took an 87 million loss on it. It’s nuts. How many more years can you have where you are losing money like that?
I hope I’m wrong. I’m not the biggest Dreamworks fan. I tend to think their films are too pop culture heavy but every once in a while they will have one I really love like the Dragon movies and Prince of Egypt. We will see what happens.
Thanks for the comment. 🙂
You should watch Spirit and Sinbad. Those films I think you would enjoy and might consider improvements from say Road To El Dorado or something like that. But that’s my take at least. Feel free to let you think regarding that.
I’ve heard those are good. On my list. 🙂
I will check those out. I’m not looking forward to Kung Fu Panda 3. I actually disliked Kung Fu Panda 2 tremendously just as The Animation Commendation did. I will go see it though, and I’ll soon check out How to Train Your Dragon 2 and probably The Penguins of Madagascar at least.
You are right at the shocking loss of money in this movie. We will see what the future for DreamWorks holds.
We will see. I’m in the camp that actually preferred Kung Fu Panda 2 to the original. I thought it had a better villain, more development of the fierce 5 and was artistically more interesting. But always enjoy hearing other points of view.
I’m not looking forward to Kung Fu Panda 3. I actually disliked Kung Fu Panda 2 tremendously just as The Animation Commendation did. I will go see it though, and I’ll soon check out How to Train Your Dragon 2 and probably The Penguins of Madagascar at least.
You are right at the shocking loss of money in this movie. We will see what the future for DreamWorks holds.
Good thing about animation is there is something for everyone.
And much like you can’t understand how The Animation Commendation and Confused Matthew failed to like Up, I will never understand why people (you, Roger Ebert, Doug Walker, etc.) feel that way about Kung Fu Panda 2.
I simply can’t disagree further. The first movie wowed me. I went in expecting a silly, but fun waste of time like Bee Movie or Over the Hedge and I came out feeling challenged, as if I had seen a genuinely great animated feature, something that really lived up to Gene Siskel’s maxim of “Any subject could be done well”. The action sequences astounded me in how un-toned down they were. It felt like I was watching something made for adults at times during those scenes in the prison. It was probably the single best action scene I have ever seen in any film, and it served a solid point. Tai Lung astounded me, in his fighting prowess and his determination. Watching his escape from jail my eyes were glued to the screen both times I saw it. For the first time in my life I admired and respected the villain and didn’t feel ashamed of it, either. And when one of the main characters died it shocked me and I couldn’t wrap my head around what had happened. In Kung Fu Panda 2 there were no surprises. The villain died, Po improbably survived time and again with little explanation, and I just yawned.
When I saw Kung Fu Panda 2 I got very bored. The action scenes were near constant to the point they nearly dominated the film, and all felt of tedium. I didn’t like the villain’s motivation being read to us off a scroll at the beginning (SHOW, DO NOT TELL!) and how little depth he had. Tai Lung’s true nature was revealed out of his anger when someone sensed it inside him – that was clever. I never felt threatened by Lord Shen, found him forgettable, and thought Po was stupid for taking so long to realize the role he played in his parents’ deaths.
I left the theater feeling deeply disappointed and annoyed at a summer blockbuster cash-in that had no heart or storytelling capability as the original. I saw the first one twice in the theater and got the DVD soon after it came out, but I really just felt like forgetting Kung Fu Panda 2 as soon as I got home.
I’m sorry, I mainly had to say all that because when I was watching the movie I actually wondered if there was someone out there who actually thought it was better than the original. I couldn’t wrap my mind around that idea, but I couldn’t escape the morbid thought that there had to be at least SOMEONE in the world.
It shows I have absolutely no idea what goes through another person’s mind when they read a book or watch a movie. And I never will.
Thanks for sharing an alternate point of view. I’ve actually only seen both movies once so I’d have to watch them again but my initial reaction was I that I preferred the second. It was less silly with the cheap gags of the first but to each their own. Up is my favorite movie of all time where Kung Fu Panda 2 I thought was entertaining so they are on a different scale for me. But again thanks for sharing your opinion. I will have to watch it again and see. I tend to often not find things boring that other people think are boring. Glad you enjoyed the first one.
I feel like most of the time I get what people are experiencing. There are only 3 or 4 movies which are special to me and that I don’t get when people don’t like. For the most part I can see others points of view. Especially when people like a movie I dislike it makes me go back and see it from another perspective. That has happened many times. But I guess we are all mysteries in one way or another.
Great to know! As far as the Despicable Me films to so far, I’ll go B+ for first and A for second one. How about you?
I meant *go so far.* My bad for the typo.
I guess I just didnt’ see how this was better in the writing than Strange Magic so I either need to give that a higher grade or give this one the same. Not a total failure of an F.
Great thing about art is it inspires all kinds of reactions.
Despicable Me I would give both Cs too. I love the minions and they are very funny and clever (I’m actually very excited for Minions movie) but the rest I think is kind of slow and the story not that great.
They are more for little kids (doesn’t have that grown up/kid appeal of Pixar, Dragon, or Kung Fu Panda). A lot of Dreamworks films I think are that way which I guess is good in a way but as I don’t have kids its tough for me to know how they would see them. I only know what I see.
In the end they just need to make me laugh and Despicable Me movies does that with the minions and it was something new so they get a C.
Maybe I lowered your expectations so you liked Home more than you thought? Nothing saves a movie like low expectations. 😉
Actually, on second thought, I give Despicable Me 1 a C and the second one a C+ or something like that. Not the best films, but they’re definitely decent for sure.
You really think Home is better than them? Very interesting. Great to hear your opinion even if it is very different from mine. For me it would be in this type of movie Monsters Inc A, Megamind B, Lilo and Stitch B, Despicable Me C, Meet the Robinsons C, Home D, Strange Magic D, Chicken Little F. But lots of ways to look at film. Thanks for sharing yours.
Anyway, glad you enjoyed it. There is literally something for everyone in animation.
For sure! Oh, and I read your comment about you liking Kung Fu Panda 2 better than the original. I liked the second one better than the original too pretty much for most, if not all, of the same reasons that you did as well. To be honest, I think that one should have won for Best Animated Feature at least instead of Rango. But oh well, I guess. Anyway, yeah I will say I kind of liked Home better than Despicable Me. Obviously not by much, but still.
Definitely agree. Rango was not my cup of tea. I think it got a long way bc Johnny Depp was still huge back then.
That’s probably true.
The one thing I can understand is saying the Furious Five were more developed. I think Tigress was really the only one to have any real character development in both movies. The rest just seemed to oppose Po and be dumbfounded by his being chosen as the Dragon Warrior then be forced to warm up to him when he defeated Tai Lung. Tigress had a lot more development with Po in this movie, what with her “The hard core do understand” line, but it all feels like it’s building up to something that never actually comes.
And Jackie Chan was a massive waste in both movies. Seriously, give him some lines!
But yeah, this was my Confused Matthew reaction. Just as he was amazed by The Lion King’s success in 1994, so I was when I finally heard what people were saying about Kung Fu Panda 2 (which took a while, because I had no real interest in the movie after I saw it).
I agree. They should have given Jackie more lines. I wonder if his English just wasn’t good enough. Who knows. Dreamworks will always be a step below Disney for me but I felt at least Kung Fu Panda 2 was less cheeky and pop culture influenced and more about a traditional story or legend. But like I said I only saw it once so its not like it is my favorite movie ever.
Take care and thanks for commenting.
I’m watching this on Netflix right now with my daughter. We obviously haven’t finished it yet but just in the first few minutes I was getting annoyed. The whole thing with Boov turning colors when they’re excited doesn’t make sense to me because it’s so inconsistent and Parsons’ voice seemed out of place from the first word. Mostly the voice doesn’t seem to match with Oh’s appearance at all. I also can’t figure out why he’s the only boov that has grammar problems.
That being said, the 6yo had laughed a few times, mostly at the kitty.
Ha. It’s interesting reading over this review because I was nicer to this film than subsequent viewing would warrant. I guess it’s adequate babysitter but that’s about it. And you know it’s a problem if the cat gets the laughs!