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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Home (2009)
Home (2009)
Fox // Unrated // June 5, 2009
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Tyler Foster | posted June 22, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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Everyone has their routine, and they don't like to change it. I know I'm like that. I'd rather use MS Paint than Photoshop, because I've learned how to make MS Paint do the things I want it to do. Other people take the long way to work, because they feel the flow of traffic is smoother. And I'm sure lots of people don't recycle, because it's easier to throw things in the garbage than sort everything out and find a recycling bin. Home, a new documentary by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, starts out with some interesting thoughts about the birth of our planet, and what we might be doing to interfere with the balance of nature through a similar type of inefficiency (albeit on a much larger scale than recycling), but slowly takes a disappointing plunge into two of the documentary genre's most common failings: repetition and preachiness. Home wants to inspire the viewer to do something, to go out and act in order to save our world from slowly collapsing, but it doesn't offer any solutions other than to tell the viewer they exist.

Narrated by Glenn Close, the film is mainly about human wastefulness. The Earth is a gigantic natural resource, and we're using it up at an alarming rate, and using old-fashioned techniques to produce energy that pollute the atmosphere and environment. It's this section above all that gets repetitive: the planet is stressed to be a perfectly-engineered system of cause and effect, and many of the things we do interrupt the flow of nature, but Arthus-Bertrand shows us example after example of this happening with little variation. Luckily, the visuals come to the rescue. Cinematographers Michel Benjamin and Dominique Gentil have found all sorts of dazzling sights, from bright green circular crops in the middle of the desert to dizzying reveals of impossibly tall skyscrapers in foreign lands.

We also get a look at some distressing things, including a look at cattle farms where grain is carted in in tons via gas-guzzling trucks just to produce a small amount of beef, at deforestation and overpopulation, at rapidly sinking rivers. The most infuriating thing about the situations the movie presents is that people are generally just hardened in their ways. If we stopped and re-evaluated the entire scenario, I'm sure we could find a way to make the world keep turning that was both efficient and environmentally friendly, but it's easier to maintain the status quo. We know we're doing it wrong, but it's too challenging to change.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the end of the line, Home wraps itself up with a barely touched-upon series of examples of things that might ease the burden on our poor planet, and seems to place the work in the audience's hands in terms of getting these processes and concepts adapted to everyday life, but the scale seems so grand, it's hard to understand what the movie wants an individual to do. I just got through saying I was frustrated with inactivity, but I don't have the money or resources to build solar panels on top of my house, much less get them built in Dubai, and I really don't have the means to get better conditions for cattle farming or a more efficient method of grain transport.

The nation has been in a "green" phase, and who knows how long it will last. Home pleads with the viewer to keep things up, because the planet depends on it, and I certainly believe we can do better things for the environment and make the world a better place, but as dazzling as the film's visuals are, its prodding will play no part in the solution. What do the filmmakers expect, that we'll write our congressmen and get some eco-friendly smoke stacks built in our neighborhoods? The film praises the efforts of individuals, suggesting that one person can make a difference. and I don't doubt that it's true, but it's hard to picture how one person can stand up against the kinds of problems the movie presents. It's a call to arms without a clear rallying cry. The message makes sense -- save our planet -- but it's more like a hope than a plan.

The DVD
Home comes in a standard-sized Eco-Box case with striking blue cover art on both the front and the back, which should certainly catch the eye of many DVD browsers. The disc features the same image, there is no insert, and the menu is very simple.

The Video
For the most part, the vivid colors and beautiful aerial photography of Home seem fairly well-represented by this DVD, but some of the shots are so high up, things like small waves on rivers just look like a horrid mess of compression artifacts (in fact, without an extremely powerful zoom function, I'd say it'd be impossible to tell the difference). I also noticed a little bit of edge enhancement here and there. If the option is available to you, I would choose an HD presentation (including Blu-Ray and another one covered in the extras section), but if standard DVD is the way to go, this is a fairly solid but imperfect presentation.

The Audio
Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is provided, and for the life of me, I can't tell why. Before watching the film, I expected it to be both a visual and aural tour-de-force, given that nature should provide ample opportunity to work a sound system, but the audio is almost entirely dedicated to Glenn Close's voice-over narration, which comes through the front, with just a little of Armand Amar's score popping up in the rear surrounds. French 5.1 is also provided, but only English closed captioning is provided instead of any player-generated subtitle tracks. I personally have yet to get closed captioning to work on a DVD using a newer, flat-screen TV, so this seems like a poor choice.

The Extras
None. Not even automatic trailers.

Here's what's confusing: I first heard about Home on YouTube. YouTube is hosting the film on their site, with the English subtitles this release is lacking, with an HD option, completely free (you can find it right here). The only difference? The version on YouTube runs a massive 25 minutes shorter than the version I have on DVD (1:33:18 vs. 1:58:19). The YouTube channel also has a slew of making-of featurettes and additional videos with more information about how to help the causes presented in the film. Why they're not on the DVD is beyond me.

Conclusion
Home is intermittently interesting, but this DVD has trouble in all areas. Even though the online presentation is truncated, seeing as the movie's problem is repetition, I'm going to suggest you either watch the shorter version online for free (which hopefully improves the movie's pacing and gets the message across more succinctly) or rent the DVD, and that you donate the $20 you were going to spend to an environmental fund of your choice. That seems like a solution that will please everyone.


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