Shout! Factory // 2002 // 360 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 2nd, 2005
"It's time to pay the price!"
This is my first exposure to the Cartoon Network series. Me like.
Home Movies chronicles the day-to-day existence of three young friends: Brendon Small (voiced by Brendon Small), Melissa Robbins (Melissa Bardin Galsky), and Jason Penopolis (H. Jon Benjamin).
When they're not struggling with science tests and annoying classmates, they're busy making movies. Lots and lots of movies.
But the filmmaking is only a portion of the show. Each episode follows a different little adventure the trio embarks on, almost always with the presence of Coach McGuirk (also voiced by H. Jon Benjamin), the clueless thinks-he's-cooler-than-he-actually-is soccer coach who somehow manages to include himself into whatever the kids have going on.
Season Three plunges our heroes into the typical every day stuff facing third graders: tornadoes, battles with sci-fi nerds, child obesity, Halloween costume rivalry, house fires, and giving birth.
Shout! Factory has packaged all 13 episodes on three discs:
* Shore Leave
* Breaking Up is Hard to Do
* Bad Influences
* Improving Your Life Through Improv
* Four's Company
* My Cheatin' Heart
* Storm Warning
* Time to Pay the Price
* Broken Dreams
* Coffins and Cradles
I went into this review with zero prior knowledge of Home Movies. I had never seen it on Cartoon Network, or UPN when it aired briefly, and knew nothing of the plot. This review comes to you from a big fat newbie with no preconceived conceptions.
My nutshell reaction: what a superbly amusing show this is!
Certain shows, I believe, carry with them a real sense of chemistry, a strain of charm that can't just be shoehorned into a series. The reason for this abstract sense of fulfillment is hard to nail down, though I do think it emanates out of a confluence of elements: writing, performance, the look, storylines, as well as a host of intangibles.
All that stuff I just mentioned? Home Movies does it very well. There's really not much to distinguish this series with its only gimmick -- the movie-making aspect -- and that serves mainly as a background setting. Shows do not revolve solely around Brendon, Melissa, and Jason's filmmaking endeavors, but rather, they utilize this hook to serve the story (and squeeze out the occasional cheap laugh).
For a show that's basically about three young kids hanging out, Home Movies, thanks to its writing team, represents an exceedingly entertaining, though hyper-minimalist, half hour spent.
What's cool about the approach the writers take to their scripts is the dialogue. In lieu of complex, captivating storylines, we get easy-to-follow narratives voiced by small children who talk like adults. Which segues me into the second point...
Brendon, Melissa, and Jason rattle their dialogue back and forth with a real sense of grown-up "small talk;" characters speak over each other, mumble, and all deliver their lines like straight men in a comedy duo. This performance method really appealed to me, as it fostered more subtle, subversive humor and loads of throwaway jokes.
The humor in Home Movies isn't gut-busting, and I only rarely guffawed aloud, but each show is relentlessly amusing. Is that a gripe? No way. I'd rather enjoy every minute of a show without necessarily wetting myself from laughter than suffer through something that occasionally lands a whopper in a sea of dullness (cough anythingonCBS cough).
The last thing I wanted to mention was the look of Home Movies. Crafted using flash animation, the series certainly won't be landing any Emmy nominations for art design, but the look matches the tone of the show. It's difficult to explain, so I'll cop out and lump that in with the "intangibles;" just know the animation works, simplistic as it might be.
I suppose that stands as a testament to the quality of the writing and voice-work. Despite the low-budget appearance of the show, I never once lost my connection with the characters and the story. They seemed real enough to me (and Melissa doesn't even have a nose!).
Shout! Factroy does good work with its releases, and Home Movies Season Three is no exception. The transfer retains their original full screen aspect ratio, but they look great. The colors are bold and the picture quality is clean. It's not really worth talking about the 2.0 stereo mix, as this series relies mainly on the banter between the characters, but it still works fine.
The assortment of extras is decent, mixing in some real oddball stuff with boilerplate fare. Co-creators Brendon Small and Loren Bouchard offer engaging commentary on selected episodes and each disc comes with a handful of animatics. On the unique end of things: a funny choose-your-own-adventure game, an okay featurette spotlighting the fans of the series, and the hilarious "DVD Extra for People Who Don't Like Home Movies" produced by Jon Benjamin. That last one is awesome by the way, and even includes a making of the "DVD Extra for People Who Don't Like Home Movies."
Come for the fun and stay for the McGuirk.
Not guilty. Roll cameras.
Review content copyright © 2005 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 360 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Selected Episode Commentary with Show Creators
* Episode Animatics
* Interactive Game
* "DVD Extra for People Who Don't Like Home Movies"
* Fans Featurette
* Official Site
* Home Movies: Season One Review
* Home Movies: Season Two Review