Home Vision Entertainment // 2002 // 65 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Treadway (Retired) // November 8th, 2003
"Celebrates the universal desire to fashion our homes for our needs and
-- Roger Ebert
Home Movie is director Chris Smith's follow-up to his much beloved 1999 documentary American Movie. That film was a charming, seriocomic look at the persistence of an aspiring filmmaker. Despite a brief running time, Smith's new film packs just as big a punch.
Smith documents five unusual homes he found while searching for homes to showcase in a series of commercials for Homestore.com. In Louisiana, Wild Bill Tregle lives in the bayou, raising alligators on a boathouse. Illinois is the location of Ben Skora's nifty "House of the Future." The Pedens of Kansas transformed an old missile base silo into a home after falling in love with the possibilities. The California home of Bob Walker and Frances Mooney is kitty heaven; they live with (at last count) nine cats. A Hawaiian tree has become the location for actress Linda Beech's lovely treehouse (not the traditional kind us kids used to have).
What is Smith trying to tell us with Home Movie? This is what I think. Society and the media have often taught us to look down upon anyone who doesn't conform to normal procedure. Well, who are we to tell someone how they should live? Our subjects live full, productive lives. And the most important thing is that they are happy!
Smith's film is amazing in that it can make people put their own lives into perspective. After watching this movie, I felt grateful that I have a home to live in and proud enough to defend it. It's not the neatest place in the world and it may not pass the Trading Spaces test, but it's my home, dammit!
As I stated before, Smith is working with the much shorter running time of 65 minutes, compared to the almost two hours of American Movie. Yet the film never feels shortchanged or rushed. It's just the right length for this set of profiles.
A full frame transfer remains faithful to the 16mm photography. As is the case with 16mm, there is quite a bit of grain in the picture. It is never a distraction and there are some shots where you won't even notice it. Colors are surprisingly saturated and vibrant for a documentary.
A Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono sound mix fits the bill quite nicely for this disc. This isn't the kind of film where a huge stereo mix would be necessary. Dialogue comes across with clarity.
A few extras are included, surprising for a documentary. Mark Borchardt, the star of American Movie, provides the funny and informative liner notes. Two featurettes are included. "Monsanto's House of the Future" is a 1958 short shot for Disneyland. "History of Kansas Missile Bases" is a 1977 PBS short subject. Both well worth seeing. A gallery of Bob Walker's cat photos follows, which cat lovers will obviously love. A montage of publicity photos from Linda Beech's 1958 Japanese sitcom is interesting to look at, but it really doesn't go anywhere. A short 15-second clip from a Louisiana State Commission commercial is included, featuring one of Wild Bill's gators. The main gems are the five Homestore.com commercials that served as the genesis for this film.
Despite the cover saying so, I couldn't find a single theatrical trailer in this package.
Retail is a bit expensive for a 65-minute documentary. I'm not sure if it's worth $29.99, but I do know it's worth at least a rental. Even if you're not a fan of documentaries, give this one a try.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Home Vision Entertainment
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 65 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Wild Bill's Gator Commercial Clip
* Monsanto's House of the Future Featurette
* History of Kansas Missile Bases Featurette
* Cat Photo Gallery
* Linda Beech Publicity Stills Montage
* Liner Notes by Mark Borchardt