Greetings again from the darkness. Depending upon your expectations for animated films, you will either find this latest from DreamWorks to be nice entertainment for kids, or a bit too simplistic for adults. Twenty years ago Pixar ushered in a golden age of animation with the first Toy Story, and the grading curve was forever changed. If you can accept that not every animated film need be an instant classic, the odds are good that kids will find this to be a very enjoyable hour and a half.
Oh (yes, that’s his name) is the friendliest and most energetic of all the Boovs, a society of technologically advanced aliens who change color based on emotions (similar to a mood ring). The Boovs also excel at running from adversity – especially when their enemy Gorg is chasing. When Captain Smek decides his Boovs will take over earth, he orders the banishment of all humans to Australia (kind of funny when you think about the history of that continent). Left behind is one youngster named Tip (short for Gratuity Tucci, one of the oddest ever screen names for a kid) and her pet, Pig the Cat. It turns out both Oh and Tip are misfits in their own world, and are forced to team up so that Oh can redeem himself and Tip can be reunited with her mother.
The main (and obvious) themes are: stay true to yourself, accept others for what they are (even if they are different from you), and family is important and worth fighting for. Tip is kind of a confusing character because she knows how to drive a car, but admits to being a 7th grader originally from Barbados. Oh has no Boov friends because he is so darned personable and he is always making mistakes – usually due to his desire to connect with others. Captain Smek’s false confidence catapults him into a leadership position, based mostly on his ability to retreat from the difficult decisions. Even the villain Gorg (who looks/dresses like Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) is simply misunderstood.
As you would expect, there is humor throughout … most of it at a level that those under age 11 will appreciate (that’s not a bad thing). These laughs come courtesy of bubble wrap, a cookbook, awkward dancing, and a hover car that runs on fast food staples like Nacho Mama, Busta Lime frozen drinks, and Burrito Torpedoes. There is a recurring gag showing clumps of earthly items deemed unnecessary by the Boovs, and this gives adults in the audience something to track.
Crucial to the film’s success is the voice acting. Oh is voiced by Jim Parsons as an E.T. version of Sheldon Cooper from “The Big Bang Theory”. His twisted version of the English language (“sad-mad”) is good for a few chuckles, but mostly his eagerness and openness make Oh a character kids will care about. Rihanna voices Tip, and has at least 3 songs on the soundtrack. She does well in capturing the strength and vulnerability of this character who is on a mission to find her mother. Also fun is hearing Matt Jones as Kyle, the ‘is he or is he not’ friend of Oh. Fans of “Breaking Bad” will recognize Mr. Jones as Badger from that series. Not quite as effective are Jennifer Lopez as Tip’s mother and Steve Martin as Captain Smek. Mr. Martin especially could have brought more spark and color to his role.
Director Tim Johnson (Over the Hedge, Antz) took the source material from Adam Rex’s book “The True Meaning of Smekday” and delivered an animated film with a refreshing approach – it doesn’t feature violence, inappropriate humor or a smart-ass kid that disrespects adults. It’s a shame that the unique color palette is quashed by the 3-D technology … and what’s up with the awful title? … but overall, this is one the kids can enjoy (especially if they are struggling to fit in).
watch the trailer: