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Home movie review

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex is a novel about a girl, Gratuity “Tip” Tucci, who befriends hapless alien J.Lo after J.Lo’s alien race, the Boov, take over Earth and kidnap Tip’s mother. Its target audience is at least upper elementary school; The Horn Book put it at grades 4-6.

home posterIn the 3D animated film adaption, Home (DreamWorks Animation, March 2015; PG), Tip (voiced by Rihanna) befriends the perhaps less confusingly named Oh (Jim Parsons). (J.Lo’s namesake, Jennifer Lopez, voices Tip’s mom.) The target audience for the movie is much younger than the book’s; the kids Siân and I observed in the theater dancing to the closing credits were probably around kindergarten-age.

Obviously, this is an adaptation that doesn’t follow the source material plot point for plot point. The original story line is simplified; gone is much of the backstory as well as the framing device of Tip’s personal essay on “the true meaning” of the day the Boov, led by Captain Smek (portrayed in the film by Steve Martin), colonized the planet. Instead, we meet Oh first, and learn how excited the little purple guy is that it’s “Moving Day”: the Boov, the “best species ever at running away” from their enemy the Gorg, are escaping to Earth. Once Tip and Oh meet and slowly learn to trust each other, their journey to find Tip’s mom takes different directions, literally — Paris and Australia rather than the novel’s Florida and Arizona destinations.

I found myself thinking back to Children’s Books Boston’s From Page to Screen panel and the idea that a good book-to-film adaptation captures the source material’s essence, even if it makes significant changes to the story. The movie still has a smart, scared main character doing whatever it takes to find her mom. It still has alien races whose societies are different enough from ours to highlight things we take for granted. It still has the Boov’s hilariously roundabout attempts at speaking English; Parsons, best known as The Big Bang Theory’s socially inept Sheldon Cooper, is perfectly suited to express confusion at human behavior (asking, when he doesn’t understand Tip’s expression, “What is the purpose of your face?”).

Oh, and by the way, that face has “big green eyes and beautiful brown skin.” It was exciting to see a long-overdue heroine of color in a funny sci-fi novel — and it’s even more exciting to see that heroine on posters for a movie aimed at young audiences.

Home’s reviews haven’t been entirely positive, and the frequent objection that the plot will be familiar to viewers who’ve seen other alien movies isn’t unfounded. But I’ll have to echo Oh here, and I suspect young moviegoers would agree: “My hands are in the air like I just do not care.”

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Shoshana Flax About Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College.

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Comments

  1. I loved reading The True Meaning of Smekday, author Adam Rex did a great job, very funny story.

    The 3d animated film adaptation has its ups and downs, but it was fun to see it. Great review.

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