Shout! Factory // 2004 // 360 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // May 1st, 2006
"I smell burning eye. Is that a problem?"
-- Coach McGuirk
The final season of the beloved Soup2Nuts production has arrived via the good folks at Shout! Factory. Documenting the day-to-day goings-on of three young kids and their fascination with producing films in their basement, Home Movies offers a wry, understated wit that proves to be hugely enjoyable. With lamentation, here is the series' swan song...
Brendon Small (Brendon Small), Melissa Robins (Melissa Bardin Galsky), and Jason Penopolis (H. Jon Benjamin) spend their afternoons toiling in Brendon's basement, constructing sets, writing scripts, and shooting an unending stream of "home movies." When they're not embroiled in production, they hack their ways through the trials of elementary school, and the extra-curricular zaniness that is the soccer team. There, they commune with Coach John McGuirk (also voiced by H. Jon Benjamin), a clueless hipster doofus who never fails to offer bad advice.
For the final season, we see the kids toil away at a God-forsaken performance camp, McGuirk get some budget-priced laser eye surgery, a mysterious new neighbor who may or may not have murdered his wife, the worst school play ever, Brendon's struggles with a stray dog with anal leakage, Melissa's struggles with make-up application, Jason's struggles with the opposite sex, Coach's struggles with barbecue grill assemblage, and everyone's struggles with profanity.
Thirteen episodes, three discs:
* "Bye Bye Greasy"
* "The Heart Smashers"
* "Everybody's Entitled to My Opinion"
* "The Wizard's Baker"
* "Honkey Magoo"
* "Those Bitches Tried to Cheat Me"
* "The Adventures of Cho and Amy Lee"
* "Definite Possible Murder"
* "Temporary Blindness"
* "Focus Grill"
Home Movies is a show that I discovered on DVD, specifically, for the Season Three set I reviewed a while back. I was pleasantly surprised by the series, and found it witty and "relentlessly amusing." In that review, I noted how the show, while consistently keeping me entertained, never really evoked grand belly laughs. I didn't mean it as a criticism, but more as an ontological observation. Well, with Season Four, I can finally say that there were more than a few times when my wife and I were struggling to breathe because we were doubled over in laughter. And thus, the transformation is complete: I frickin' adore this show. And I never use the girlie word "adore" in reviews. That's how much I dig it.
For me, Home Movies owed much of its success to tone. I think Brendon Small and Loren Bouchard, the creators and showrunners, were able to carve out a niche for their series to fit into, and throughout the run, just nailed their unique feel. It's conversational and droll, and the humor is generated not so much by crafted comedy set-pieces (though there are many, many funny ones throughout), but by the dialogue between its diminutive characters. Brendon, Jason, and Melissa converse like they're much older than eight, yet still regain the conceits of children. This juxtaposition between well-articulated writing placed into the mouths of eight-year-olds in onesies is money. Plus, it doesn't hurt that the actual writing is sharp and funny.
Rounding out the cast is Benjamin's awesome Coach McGuirk, a buffoon of the highest order and often the character who shoulders the load of dealing with the more outlandish comic spectacles. In this season, among other things, we see him having his eyes nuked for laser surgery, faking psychic powers, working out his pectoral muscles to the point they're D-cups, rediscovering his Scottish highland dancing heritage, escaping from a wilderness cult of sensitive men, and blowing up half the neighborhood with a poorly assembled grill. McGurik is great because of all of this, his idiotic ruminations (delivered with perfection by Benjamin), and the fact that he really acts more like a child than Brendon, Melissa, and Jason.
These 13 episodes are just as solid as any other season, and, in fact, some of my all-time favorite shows are on this set. "Bye Bye Greasy," the episode with the ill-fated play that finds Coach McGuirk driving his sports car on stage, had me in fits straight through. Ditto to "Honkey Magoo," which documents the kids' fascination with a stray dog with loose bowels and Jason's disappointment in a big-time annoying pet bird. And Coach having the eyeball surgery? The tops, baby, the tops.
Fans will immediately pick this up, no doubt, but for those uninitiated I strongly recommend giving this season, or any other, a glance. And don't let the simplistic animation fool you: Home Movies is a thoroughly grown-up show.
Every episode has at least one commentary track, featuring cast and crew, as well as some guest commentators like fans and staff members of The Onion (?!). A few episodes even have three tracks; that right there is possibly an over-abundance of talking. Animatics for select episodes can also be found on each disc. Furthermore: on Disc One, Loren Bouchard hosts "The Beginning of the Genesis of the Origin of Home Movies," a segment featuring audio cuts from the cast as they settled into their characters; Disc Two brings you the "Home Movies Audio Outtakes Jukebox," a fun little interactive thing that reveals discarded -- and funny -- bits of dialogue; finally, you'll get a bonus audio CD, sporting 52 tracks culled from the series run.
One complaint. There seemed to be an awful lot of bleeped swearing this season. I'm no prude, but this faux edginess didn't fit with the atmosphere of the show. Home Movies is not South Park, nor should it have wanted to be.
What do you get when you cross a terrific show with a solid technical presentation and a batch of interesting extras? Another must-own Home Movies set, of course.
Not guilty. Cut.
Review content copyright © 2006 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: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Cast and Crew Commentary
* Fans Commentary
* "The Beginning of the Genesis of the Origin of Home Movies--The Very First Sessions with Loren Bouchard"
* "Home Movies" Audio Outtakes Jukebox"