HOME, the new Dreamworks movie starring Rihanna and Jennifer Lopez that opens in theaters this Friday, had me at the movie poster: it features an adorable, chocolate girlpie with a great big ‘ol afro—a most perfect image that lets me know as a mother that the film’s producers, director, animators and storytellers see my babies.
And doesn’t this matter? I know it does around my way, where, advances in stories about and by Black folk on TV notwithstanding (nods to Shonda Rhimes, Mara Brock Akil, Gabrielle Union and the folk behind Doc McStuffins), kid movies featuring children of color, particularly animated ones, are still in all-too-short supply. Indeed, the last time I remember getting a thrill about an animated feature like HOME was when The Princess and the Frog hit the big screen. That was 2009.
Marinate on that.
Of course, the excitement for HOME in the MyBrownBaby household isn’t reserved solely for the fanatical mom who stans for movies that feature Black children; Totally Lila is geeked to see the flick, too, because she’s a big fan of the book on which it’s based, “The True Meaning of Smekday,” by Adam Rex. The story’s premise: 11-year-old Gratuity Tucci, a.k.a. Tip (Rihanna), is searching for her mother (Jennifer Lopez), who, along with the rest of the human species, has been rounded up by a group of aliens, called The Boov, and sent to live in Australia while the aliens and their goofy leader, Captain Smek (Steve Martin), resettle on Earth. But one nonconformist Boov named Oh (Jim Parsons), is on the run after accidentally giving up the coordinates of his group’s whereabouts to a rival group of aliens, The Gorg. That’s when Oh meets up with the equally non-conforming and independent Tip, and the two go on a buddy quest to save the world—and themselves.
Rihanna recently told a roundtable of bloggers that it was important to her that Tip, who in the movie hails from the singer’s country, Barbados, be created in an image with her likeness and traits. “We wanted little girls to feel empowered, little girls of any size, shape, color, race. It didn’t matter,” Rihanna said. “We wanted girls to just feel strong and brave and empowered and beautiful and like they can do anything. And they can take charge of their life or their situation no matter what. And I think we were really, really careful, especially with the animation and making sure that she wore the right things, that her body was not unrealistic, you know? And I think for kids, that’s going to be very special, for young girls especially. “
Added Rihanna: “I really want to be more like Tip. I’m really inspired by her strength and determination because, you know, even in real life, there are those moments where you start to doubt yourself or you start to really feel like it’s not the right thing and going on the wrong direction. It’s taking too long. It shouldn’t be this hard. And you don’t know. Like, you start to lose hope. This movie did kind of bring that back for me.”
DreamWorks’ HOME is not your average animated film. Not only will you love the characters and comedy, but you’ll totally fall for the empowering messages laced throughout, including the importance of family and friendship and the value of learning from your mistakes.
HOME is a great family film that I encourage you to take your kids to see—this opening weekend, especially, when showing up and showing out for a film featuring a cute Black girl with a huge afro could open the door to more flicks featuring characters that look like our babies. Representation matters to me. Let’s show Hollywood it matters to all of us.
If you do go, share your thoughts, pictures and messages of encouragement under the hashtag #DreamWorksHOME.
Let’s show Hollywood more images like this:
Photo credit: Talitha Watkins
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HOME, a Dreamworks animated film starring Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Jim Parsons and Steve Martin, opens in theaters on March 27, 2015. It is rated PG. Get more information about the movie here, and find theaters, tickets and showtimes for your area here.
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This post is part of a compensated campaign with Dreamworks.
All opinions are my own.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.