When push comes to shove, there really aren’t many more than a handful of stories to be told. On screen, those stories, so essential to our understanding of the world and our place in it, are delivered through genres appealing to all tastes – from sci-fi to western, rom-com to horror to earnest Oscar winning drama and everything in between.

Animation, too glibly dismissed as ‘kids’ stuff’, serves the same purpose and in recent times it has fulfilled its brief with considerably more balance and clarity than many of its star-strewn counterparts.

Belonging and family are the underpinning themes in this sometimes erratic but visually splendid, engaging and heart-warming cartoon.

Oh (voiced by Jim Parsons reprising his nerdy Sheldon from ‘Big Bang Theory’) is an outcast among the Boov, creatures from a planet who have taken over Earth to evade their persecutor, a metallic monster from another galaxy.

Tip (Rihanna), a teenaged Barbadian girl living in new York, is separated from her Mom (Jennifer Lopez) in the great pogroms that ensue. She and Oh share the same misery of being an outsider, so it is inevitable that they – with Pig, the fat tortoiseshell cat – should buddy-up and go in search of Mom.

If the sink-hole of social media is any indication, the need to feel part of a bigger entity (at the cost of individuality?) is a primal urge and it is one of the film’s sharpest ironies that Oh has put himself off-side with the other Boov by pressing ‘send to all’ on his hand-held i-Thingy a message that will result in doom for his kind.

Desperately seeking a means of deleting that message, Oh becomes the ‘stranger in a strange land’ (it is one of the oldest tropes of all) as, traveling with Tip, he learns about and begins to adapt to our Earthly ways – his first encounter with music and dancing is gold.

Animation is now light years away from when Mickey was steering his steamboat down the Mississippi, but its simple pleasures and loveable characters endure.

~ John Campbell

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