In 10 Words or Less
There's gotta be another disc's worth of stuff around here
Loves: Cartoons, Homestar Runner
Likes: Strong Bad
Dislikes: The Cheat Commandos
Hates: Marshie (because he's creepy)
The Story So Far...
Homestarrunner.com has earned a healthy cult following online through
its high-quality flash cartoons starring Homestar Runner, an armless
goofball with a speech defect, and a cast of odd but lovable
characters. Though the cartoons are available for free online, three DVD collections have been released, starting with "Strongbad_email.exe", a three-DVD set of episodes. That was followed by a fourth disc of "Strongbad_email.exe," and then "Everything Else, Vol. 1." DVDTalk has a review of the fourth disc of "Strongbad_email.exe."
I have to admit, before getting this disc in my hands, it had been a
while since I visited the Homestar gang. I have my theories as to why I
was going with a flash fix for some time, but they don't explain away
the hurt. Fortunately, with the Homestar universe of entertainment
products, you can drop in at any time and enjoy it as much as anyone.
The prolific Strong Bad e-mails are probably the most popular part of
the Chapman Brothers' output, but there's much more to enjoy, including
a wealth of spin-off concepts and short cartoons. The first volume of
Everything Else collected some of the best of the non-e-mail material,
including the excellent "Teen Girl Squad" series and the adorable puppet
episodes. That compilation didn't leave the cupboard bare for Volume 2,
but it certainly set the bar rather high.
The most important segments included in this set are the annual
Halloween cartoons, which are consistently some of the funniest the site
serves up. From the sometimes obscure 1980s costumes to the trick or
treat games to the pumpkin carving contest to the fan costume photos
(with Strong Bad commentary,) these are brilliantly entertaining. If
you've never seen them, the guessing games over what exactly that odd
yellow shirt is supposed to be are as fun as the stories.
The Decemberween collection doesn't have the same comedic punch as the
Halloween bits, but there are some gems, including "Decemberween in
July," a quartet of Decemberween cartoons, featuring a "Teen Girl Squad"
show, a visit to the surreal world of Sweet Cuppin' Cakes and a meeting
between Puppet Homestar and a Santaman. A bunch of additional holiday
cartoons follow, though the holiday label is applied loosely. The best
of the bunch is the laconic "Senorial Day" ad with disturbing pedo-esque
The assortment of shorts included, which includes everything but the latest bits from the "Big Toons" menu, is good, but these have rarely been among the better material from the site. It might be the length that drags them down, but they never seem as hilarious as the other cartoons. The only must-see bits are "A Jorb Well Done," featuring Coach Z's amusing speech impediment, and "The Luau," which is one of the sillier episodes among the "Big Toons." Also from the site, in a way, is the "Museum" collection, which features old bits of animation, including the first cartoons and books, the original Mario Paint film, and a pair of cartoons that have been removed from the site, "Marshmallow's Last Stand" and "A Jumping Jack Contest." These are good for historical value, but they simply aren't very good.
The one section I could do without is "The Cheat Commandos." Yes, I think the Cheat is adorable, and yes, I think the parody of "G.I. Joe" and the '80s toy/cartoon schemes is very smart, but I just can't get into these cartoons. I'm not sure why either. Perhaps it's because the cartoons lost their parody focus. Either way, there's an exclusive adventure included on this disc, which is a parody of "Dragon's Lair." "Blue Laserdisc Challenge" allows you to play the same way the old game worked, choosing a direction to move at each obstacle or fork in the road. It's not very involved, but is short enough that trying all the options won't take you long. Maybe if I like the Commandos more, it would have been better.
Packed in a digipak with the swinging open cover dealie, this one-disc release features an animated full-frame main menu with the various categories listed (each includes a play-all option), as well as the option to select the bonus menu. Let the menu sit a bit, and you will enjoy it. There are no audio options or subtitles and there is no closed captioning.
The full-frame transfers show how good the flash animation used for the cartoons is, as the image is crisp and clean, with bright, vivid color, and no dirt or damage (obviously.) On some of the older segments, the image can be slightly soft, but for the most part, it looks terrific.
The soundtrack is a simple Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, with the dialogue, music and sound effects coming across cleanly, without any distortion. There's some surprisingly dynamic moments, where sound shifts from side to side to give more depth to the mix, but for the most part it's right down the middle and does a good jorb.
Hit the bonus menu and you get four choices, each a short bit of animation not available on the site. First up is "Why Come Only One Girl?," which looks at why there's only one female character in the cartoons. It's a cute piece. "Halloween Awards Show" is an unfinished cartoon that ties into "The House That Gave Sucky Treats" and a fan poll for best costume. Again, it's a solid parody of award shows, but nothing great. A couple of flash-focused pieces wrap things up, with "Flashforward," a short intro to a Flash conference, and "Flash's 10th Birthday," a very inside cartoon that will appeal to users of Adobe's software.
But wait...that's not all. Using your audio button, you can find 32 commentary tracks from the Chapman brothers, singer Peter Olsen, producer Ryan Sterritt, Homestar and Strong Bad. (There are over 50 cartoons on the disc, so the tracks are somewhat randomly placed.) The tracks range from silly to informative, but should appeal to fans of the series, as the sense of humor is the same. Some cartoons are too short for much to be said, but the participants make it work, including the in-character tracks. You can also find the easter eggs that appear on the site after the episodes, by clicking on the HR logo that appears. If you watch using the play all option though, they will not appear, nor will the commentaries.
The Bottom Line
I can spend long amounts of time on the Homestar Runner site flipping through cartoons, but the material on this disc is a bit hit or miss. Fervent fans will enjoy being able to watch these 50+ episodes on a big TV screen, instead of in front of a computer, and checking out the exclusive material and bonuses, but casual fans will probably be satisfied watching them online. The DVD looks and sounds solid, and the extras do add a good deal to value to the disc, making it a positive pick-up for HR's audience, especially considering the price.
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.