In 10 Words or Less
It's time to pay the price
Loves: "Home Movies," cartoons, Shout! Factory
Likes: [adult swim], Walter and Perry
Hates: Fenton Mewley
The Story So Far...
"Home Movies" started in 1999 as a series on UPN, but it lasted all of five episodes, only to return on cable and find its niche as a part of Cartoon Network's [adult swim] lineup. A show about kids that's certainly not for kids, it follows a trio of young friends, Brendon, Melissa and Jason, who make hundreds of bad films with their camcorder. Without much in the way of supervision from their parents or teachers, they get to do basically whatever they want.
Shout! Factory released Season One in November of 2004, and followed it up with Season Two in May 2005. DVDTalk has reviews of both: Season One | Season Two.
The first two seasons of "Home Movies" put almost as much of a spotlight on Paula Small (Janine Ditullio) and Coach McGuirk (H. Jon Benjamin) as it did the three kids. With a third season to produce, the creators put the focus on Brendon, Melissa and Jason, and, as a result, came up with some of the best stories the show has produced.
Whether the group is running away to become appreciated artists in Europe, serving detention Breakfast Club-style or breaking up their friendship, the show gets its laughs out of a twisted sitcom sensibility, where the kids have a better sense of the world than the adults. The plots thankfully are more original than the traditional sitcom stories, poking fun at topics like child slavery, obesity, elderly divorce and French kids.
The third season of the show saw the creators get a perfect handle on the characters and the animation. Episodes like "Time to Pay the Price" are quintessential "Home Movies," taking a cue from the kids' moviemaking and spinning it off with an odd sense of humor. There are the occasional side-stories involving the always funny relationship between McGuirk and Mr. Lynch or Paula's career problems, but they don't get the time they would have in earlier episodes.
More important than who is in these episodes less, is who is in them more, namely Walter and Perry. These pint-sized maniacs are a bit more "out" this time around, freely expressing their love for each other, and annoying all those around them. There's not a moment that they are on-screen that isn't extremely entertaining, especially in "Storm Warning," where they are utter lunatics in attempting to save a tree they have a special attachment to.
While there are many great episodes in this set, the best of the bunch is "Renaissance," which sees the kids staffing a Medieval Fair, under the supervision of Mr. Lynch, who enjoys the role-playing a bit too much. Every inch and every second of this episode has something funny going on, whether it's Walter and Perry trapped in an apple cart, the sci-fi/D&D rivalry or McGuirk's hangover. The climax is the high point of the series in terms of ridiculous fun and animation quality.
While "Renaissance" is the finest episode, the season finale, "Coffins and Cradles" is excellent in its own right, as it was intended as a series finale if the show wasn't picked up for a fourth season. Life, death, fun Halloween costumes, the return of one of the more fun characters from the second season and a guest spot from Tom Kenny make for a good time, and the show actually becomes poignant for a moment. But only a moment.
The 13 third-season episodes of "Home Movies" come on three DVDs, with four episodes on the first two discs and five on the final DVD. The main menu follows the same full-frame design as the previous sets, with a "Play All" option, episode selections and a special features choice. All of the menus have animated transitions 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. Consistency is a wonderful thing.
Having mastered their animation technique, these episodes look tremendous with beautiful, solid color and an increased level of detail in the art. The full-frame transfers are crisp and clean, without a spot of dirt or damage. "Storm Warning" is particularly impressive, with many visual effects. The only problem here is the occasional thinness in the black outlines, but that's just nitpicking.
The audio, presented as a Dolby Digital 2.0 track, is strong, with clear dialogue and a mix that delivers the music with a nice weight. It's a simple track, as the show doesn't try any aural acrobatics, but a good one that sounds just as it should.
Co-creators Loren Bouchard and Brendon Small provide audio commentaries for seven episodes: "Shore Leave," "Bad Influences," "Renaissance," "Guitarmageddon" "Storm Warning," "Time to Pay the Price" and "Coffins and Cradles." Recorded in Small's apartment, the tracks are more about hanging out and enjoying the episodes than providing information, though they do try and answer fan mail during one episode. That is, except for the commentary on "Time to Pay the Price," which is something very different. Enjoyable? That's another story, but it's definitely different.
The extras don't seem to get off to a great start this time out, with Disc One feeling a bit light in terms of quantity. Following up on one of the easter eggs on Season Two, "Decide Your Doom Game: Revenge of the Dorks," allows you to play a choose-your-own-adventure based on the episode "Renaissance." It's a fun little game, and even the credits have jokes in them, so it's a good time-waster. There's also animatics (or rough draft animation) for "Shore Leave." Animation fans might find this an interesting look at the creation process.
Disc Two has a pair of bonus features, starting with "A Featurette for People Who Don't Necessarily Like 'Home Movies' by Jon Benjamin." With a name like that, it's got to be good. Basically, it's just a scant few minutes of odd footage, with a couple of famous guest stars like Todd Barry and David Cross. The thing is, it's followed by "The Making of the DVD Extra You Just Saw," which is a perfect parody of the standard "Making of" featurettes that are all over DVDs, right down to the oh-so-serious music. For any DVD fanatic, it's a real treat. Animatic for "Guitarmadeddon" are also included.
Disc Three features three more special features. "Some 'Home Movies' Fans - A Music Video" is made up of stills of fans of the show at some sort of convention, getting autographs from Small and company at a Shout! Factory booth. Set to the music from the "Time to Pay the Price" commentary, the most interesting thing about this piece is how hot some of the show's fans are. There's also animatics for "Coffins and Cradles."
In my opinion, the best extra in this set is the 72-minute April 2004 radio interview, conducted by WFMU's Tom Scharpling with Bouchard and Benjamin. Right from the beginning, it's obvious that it's not the usual interview. Let's just say that Benjamin's voice is a bit unusual. At times combative, but always funny, the interview is all over the map and an enjoyable listen.
The Bottom Line
By focusing on the kids, the series turned out the best season of "Home Movies," creating some truly memorable episodes, including the geek-classic "Renaissance." Everything came together here, including the animation, writing and voice performances. The DVD box set looks and sounds excellent and includes a good amount of bonus content, though less than the previous set. If the episodes weren't so good, I'd be tempted to say this was something of a disappointment in terms of the extras. But as it is, this set is one heck of a good time and worth the time and cost to any fan of the show.
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 follow him on Twitter
*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.