Animation is once again the focus of this double review feature, and this time, instead of concerning the types of animation employed, I am more concerned with brand recognition. Neither of the films concerned are original projects. The connection with SpongeBob is obvious, while Home is loosely adapted from a little known essay-based children’s book, but marks a new property for DreamWorks to explore. One stands out as the most bizarre and bonkers animation in recent memory, quite possibly produced in a writer’s room with a steady supply of hallucinogenics coming in. The other, is frustratingly safe and lacking in anything all that inventive. Take a guess which one’s which.
The latest offering from DreamWorks Animation is unlikely to help the studio out of its current state of woe. Reducing their output by a good 50%, DreamWorks Animation is in a state of limbo, with even some of their more tried and tested properties failing to ignite the box-office (Penguins of Madagascar). Home is based from a children’s story that is written as if it’s a time-capsule essay, describing an event when aliens came to Earth at Christmas, taking over the planet, and the holiday, as their own. Some elements remain, mainly the names of the characters and the central relationship, as one of the invading aliens, named Oh (Jim Parsons) finds himself a fugitive from his own kind, leading him to team up with a human, Tip (Rihanna) whose mother has been relocated by the invading extra-terrestrials. Together, they go searching for her mother in a car powered by slushies, forming an unlikely friendship along the way.
Home is a frustrating movie to write about because it is completely and utterly harmless but also lacking in anything all that unique or engaging. Judging by the nature of the source material, there could have been a far more interesting movie here, a film which played with the format of story-telling rather than what we have, which is a colour by numbers style of story-telling. Nothing is very surprising, with the central relationship being the only thing really worth clinging on to.
The character of Tip is quite refreshing. Much like the studio’s surprise hit The Croods, we have a heroine who is not a typical ‘Disney-fied’ model, she feels very genuine and Rihanna’s personality and characterisation aides rather than distracts the development of the character. Parsons as the alien Oh is as you’d expect, a hyperactive Sheldon Cooper constantly in over his head. But it is a good foil to the more straight-laced Tip.
DreamWorks have shown that they are very capable in delivering works of animation that have produced some stunning imagery. Their stand-out franchise, How to Train Your Dragon (yes, it’s better than Shrek), has shown how their talents can be put towards a tale capable of pleasing both kids and adults with beautifully rendered animation and emotionally engaging stories. Home is strictly kiddy-affair with little in the way of sophisticated animation and gags. The colours are big, bold and brash, and the action is far too hyperactive to be all that involving.
Ultimately, Home seems to represent a studio unsure of what to do with the properties that they possess. There seemed to be a more faithful adaptation once upon a time, as the Christmas setting is there but is quickly forgotten about. It screams of a script that was never in a stable state of completion, which is a shame because some of the character work remains strong. We can only just hope that DreamWorks shake this funk as soon as they possibly can. 2/5
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (Dir: Paul Tibbitt & Mike Mitchell)
Now to the acid trip. The first SpongeBob movie was, believe it or not, 11 years ago, but the character is no less a prevalent figure on Televisions across the world, and has remained a favourite across a wide age range. This film, coming at a point in which plans to end the show are being put into action, doesn’t play like a farewell. It is rather more aimless than that. What has been concocted here is a bevy of separate sub-plots and strands that seemingly connect in one animated spectacle that is so surreal and frantic that you’ll often find yourself struggling to keep up.
The coveted Krabby Patty Secret Formula is at risk once again from the tenacious Plankton (Mr. Lawrence). However, when the formula seemingly disappears from thin air, Bikini Bottom falls into chaos. SpongeBob must forge a team of his friends to head to the surface to find out who has the formula. Soon enough, they discover it has fallen in to the hands of a crafty Pirate Cook (Antonio Banderas), and must do all they can to regain the formula and restore culinary order to Bikini Bottom.
Much of the marketing for the film has focused on the characters becoming computer generated, 3-D versions of themselves. Many have been weary of this decision, and indeed have been put off by the re-design, so I think I should reassure all of you that the CG-versions of the characters only appear in the final third, with much of the run-time being comprised of the traditional 2-D design, which is a relief. Often, when 2-D characters become CG/3-D-ified, they often risk losing their charm. In having the change only occupy the action in final third, and having that third play like an Avengers spoof, allows for the change to sit perfectly fine.
SpongeBob has always been a show capable of being twisted, slightly macabre, and balls to the wall insane. Sponge Out of Water very much maintains this vibe, for better and for worse. There are inspired moments, the highlight being Matt Berry as a Cosmic Time-Travelling Dolphin, but other wise some of the scenes (which play more like comedy sketches) are thrown at you in the hope that some of it sticks. Enough does, but man, does this film leave you a bit breathless.
The first film benefited from a more conventional narrative structure, while this instalment plays more slapdash, conveying littler concern for consequence. It grates at times, but there is a very strong attempt to have an unstoppable gag rate in a film where there is plenty for both kids and adults to guffaw over. 3/5