In 10 Words or Less
Brendon and his pals film another season of bizarre fun
The Story So Far...
"Home Movies" started in 1999 as a network series, but it quickly got the hook, only to return as an anchor for Cartoon Network's [adult swim] lineup. A very off-kilter animated sitcom, it followed the adventures of Brendon, Melissa and Jason, three grade-school kids who made basement films with their camcorder. Without worthy adult role models, they find themselves having to be a bit more mature than they should be, which makes for some funny and weird moments.
DVDTalk has a review of Season One here.
The kids are back for more film fun, with a second season of "Home Movies." The first season established the various relationships and characters, allowing the writers to cut loose in the second run, showing more of the movies Brendon and his friends make. In fact, in some episodes, the movies get more exposure than the characters' lives, like in "History," which opens with an extended movie scene.
Besides the focus on the movies, there was more involving Brendon's parents in this season as well. Brendon's dad, who showed up in the final episode of the first season, makes several appearances in these episodes, enforcing the relationship with his son. That relationship comes with a caveat, as his dad is about to marry his girlfriend, a woman who doesn't get along well with Brendon.
His mom Paula has troubles of her own, as she lost her job teaching this season. The money crunch she feels helps add to some plots, including a few about her job search, while her new daytime drinking habit becomes a background issue that changes the character a bit, making her a bit funnier, a bit more politically incorrect and a more sympathetic character. (Check out the commentaries for an interesting real-world take on Paula, based on her character's history on the show.)
There are two more characters that have higher profiles in Season Two, but they should probably have had their own show. Walter and Perry, two of Brendon's classmates, are two of the most bizarre characters to grace American animation. Having fallen completely in love with each other, they express some odd form of homoeroticism, often sharing their desires to spend the rest of their lives together. Other characters often given them weird looks, but nothing is ever really said about what's going on with them, even when it comes to the adults. Whenever they are on-screen, it's as if the world stops. I can't think of anything to even compare them to. They must be experienced.
There are some great episodes in this season, but one stands out above the rest, and that's "The Party," which spread the screen-time around among the three leads. While Brendon trying to figure out how to pay a video tribute to a complete jerk makes up the main plot, Melissa and Jason's abusive relationship steals the show. Their adversarial friendship was similarly on display in "Business and Pleasure," where they vied for screen-time, putting Brendon in a tough spot. Anyone who's ever been in a friendship triangle will get laughs out of their situation, and its episodes like these that are the most enjoyable. Plus, "Business" features some really odd behavior on the part of Jason.
I can, without hesitation, say that I hated "Home Movies" when I first saw it, back in its initial run on UPN. To see how far it's come at the end of the second season is truly impressive, as it became a very dark but hilarious show, with the kind of nonsensical comedy and rapid-fire pacing that is missing from TV now.
Shout! Factory has loaded the 13 second-season episodes onto three discs, with four episodes on the first two discs and five on the final DVD. On the main menu for each disc, a "Play All" option, episode selections and special features are accessible. On the first DVD, there's also some plugs for Shout! Factory DVDs. All of the menus become animated when selections are made, with each option activating a different action. When selecting episodes, any available commentary tracks or episode-specific bonus features are displayed, along with the episode's original airdate. The discs come packaged in three clear ThinPaks with double-sided covers, housed in a cardboard slipcase.
• Politics: Brendon runs for school president, with some help from Shannon the bully.
• Identifying a Body: When Coach McGuirk takes him along to identify a body at the morgue, Brendon spends all the money he collected for the walkathon.
• Hiatus: The gang decides to take a break from movies in order to recharge their batteries.
• Business and Pleasure: Jason is jealous of Melissa's role in their movies.
• The Party: Fenton Mewly's mom asks Brendon to make a movie about her annoying son for his birthday.
• Impressions: Trying to impress Cynthia, he takes her to Jason's country club under false pretenses.
• Dad: Brendon spends uncomfortable time with his dad and his new girlfriend Linda.
• Therapy: It's time for Brendon to hit the couch when issues arise with Linda.
• Class Trip: When Paula chaperones a field trip, she creates trouble for Brendon's plans to film "on location."
• History: Brendon's movie shows a complete lack of historical knowledge, which leads Mr. Lynch to tutor him.
• Writer's Block: With a major assignment due, Brendon suffers a case of writer's block.
• Pizza Club: Paula tries to get involved in Brendon's movies, while Coach McGuirk tries to get between Brendon and his dad.
• The Wedding: Brendon breaks out in a rash in time for his dad's wedding.
The first seasons' episodes looked a bit dull at times, mainly due to the animation technique. This second season looks tremendous, with a full-frame transfer full of bright colors and clear images. As is often the problem with animation on DVD, thin black lines become pixilated, but other than that, these episodes look fantastic. I certainly don't remember them looking so good on TV.
The audio became more important in the second season, with songs becoming more prevalent in the show. The soundtrack is Dolby 2.0, with a mix of dialogue and score that keeps both parts distinct. For standard TV audio, it sounds very good.
The first disc's special features start with the winning entry in the "Small Shorts" Film Competition. The contest required competitors to create a short film in the vein of the series. The winner came pretty damn close to a movie that would have been made by Brendon, Melissa and Jason. It's cute, and one hell of a prize for the winners, but it won't get many spins by the average viewer.
More fun is found in the disc's two audio commentaries, found on "Identifying the Body" and "Hiatus." Last time out, producer Loren Bouchard and series creator/star Brendon Small were joined by the voice of McGuirk, H. Jon Benjamin, and producer Jack Ferraiolo for nine audio commentaries.
This time, for reasons explained on one of the tracks, it's Melissa's voice, producer Melissa Galsky, who joins the boys behind the mic. The tracks have a bit more of a fun feel than the anarchy of Season One's commentaries, mainly because of the give and take between Melissa and Brendon. The tracks are Season Two-focused, as the commentators note that much about the show was covered in the first season DVDs, but occasionally Galsky comments on things she wasn't around for last time.
"Memories: Guest Stars Remember 'Home Movies'" is an 11-minute featurette done with the sense of humor of the series. The guest stars on the show, including David Cross, Andy Kindler and Jonathan Katz, talk about their experiences on the show and where they got them. It's damn funny and ridiculous and informative if you never realized how many names in comedy provided voices for the show.
Another 11 minutes in Heaven is up next, as Small interviews Galsky on-screen. If these two aren't dating, they really should, as their chemistry is perfect. The two play off each other very well, and create an interview that's more of a sketch, but it doesn't seem contrived in anyway. Fans of the series will enjoy seeing that they are just as good together in real life as they are when animated.
Animatics for the episode "Politics" are included also, but they're mainly for hardcore animation fans interested in behind-the-scenes info.
Another pair of commentaries from Small, Galsky and Bouchard is found on "The Party" and "Therapy", along with animatics for "The Party." But there are two features unique to this disc as well.
"Audio Anatomy of a Scene" is hosted by Bouchard, and shows how the audio editing is done of the show. The screen is split (or more truthfully quartered) to show the computer audio tracks and Bouchard, as he explains the methods behind the choices made, building a scene aurally in the time span of the featurette.
Another on-screen interview is available, as Bouchard joins Galsky and Small for a more-focused chat about Season Two of "Home Movies." The trio talk about the motivation for the change in animation style, the challenges of budget controlling creativity and the plot developments. Check this out to see how far one man can take a fake hair appliance...and find out a lot about the creation of this series.
Animatics are back for "History," this time with commentary by the trio and the crew that worked on the episode. The commentary is pure madness, as Small acts a moderator for the group, and acts like an insane John McLaughlin, yelling at people to talk. It follows the theme of the show, but is a manic track.
It's just the three principals back for the commentaries on "History," "Pizza Club" and "The Wedding." These episodes were great choices, as they each have a lot going on to talk about.
Three "Home Movies" Music Treats are up next, with two audio tracks from the show: "Sunset Theme," which played at the end of "The Party," and "Starboy and the Captain of Outer Space," from Scab's soundtrack in "History." They run two minutes and one minute each, respectively, with a static piece of art on the screen. They aren't bad, but I can't see anyone listening to them often.
"Play the 'Home Movies' Theme in One Easy Lesson" is more enjoyable, as Small, a musician, explains how to play the show's theme song. I can't say I could pick up a guitar and follow along, but it's definitely interesting to hear him play, with Bouchard providing an assist on the piano.
Wrapping things up is "'Home Movies' Writer Bill Braudis Speaks!" Behind that long title is four minutes of the writer talking about his work on the series. It's quick and breezy, as he discusses the show's writing process. Katz makes another appearance in a minor cameo that kicks up the funny on this laid-back extra.
On the Hunt
There's are two Easter Eggs on the first disc that are a lot of fun. Check the DVDTalk Easter Eggs section for more details.
The Bottom Line
In its first full season animated in flash, "Home Movies" made some leaps in terms of quality, not only on-screen but on the page as well. The creators are obviously more comfortable with the characters this time around, putting them to the test in a wide variety of adventures and film. The DVD package is just as good as that of the first season, continuing the trend of excellent [adult swim] home video releases with a packed, informative and most importantly enjoyable selection of extras and a vibrant visual presentation. "Home Movies" fans should be very excited to get their hands on this set, while the casual animation fan should get a kick out of it as well.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.