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Shout Factory presents
Home Movies: Season One (1999-2001)

Coach McGuirk: All right, look alive out there. Come on everyone.
Eric: You heard him, Melissa. L-l-look lively. I-I mean, have a lively look about you.
Coach McGuirk: What, are you Melissa's dad, or something?
Eric: Yeah.
Coach McGuirk: Yeah, I thought you looked familiar. Ernest, right?
Eric: Eric.
Coach McGuirk: Yes, Melissa's a good kid, y'know. Ya got—ya got a pretty good kid there.
Eric: I call her my Little Sunshine Daisy.
Coach McGuirk: MELISSA! YOU IDIOT! KICK THE BALL!

- H. Jon Benjamin, Jonathan Katz

Review By: Nate Meyers  
Published: November 18, 2004

Stars: Brendon Small, H. Jon Benjamin, Melissa Bardin Galeki, Janine Ditullio, Paula Poundstone
Other Stars: Jonathan Katz, Tom Snyder, Holly Schlesinger, Holly Kretschner, Ron Lynch, Sam Brown, Emo Philips, Paula Plum, Richard Snee, Mitch Hedberg, Eugene Mirman, Laura Silverman, Larry Murphy, Will Lebow, Bill Braudis, Jennifer Kirkman, Kelly Kimball
Director: Various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (bleeped-out language, sexual innuendo, mild cartoon violence, portrayals of alcoholism)
Run Time: 04h:46m:51s
Release Date: November 16, 2004
UPC: 826663818796
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ AAB D+

DVD Review

Home Movies is a rousing success with its fans, but sadly its fanbase is not extensive. The series began on UPN in the spring of 1999 and failed to receive any notice. As is to be expected, the network executives canceled the program after a mere five episodes. However, show creators Brendon Small and Loren Bouchard were fortunate enough to receive a second chance, thanks to the good people at Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. In September of 2001, Home Movies returned to the air, now with a cult following, to further the adventures of its characters.

The show began as an avant-garde experiment from the creators of Comedy Central's Dr. Katz. Those who are familiar with that improvisational cartoon will immediately notice the similarities between the two creations. Home Movies, apart from having some of the same cast members and the exact same sense of humor, also utilized the (thankfully) short-lived animation technique known as "squiggle vision." After numerous viewer complaints about the constantly moving characters, the animators dropped the style in the second season. But before this happened, 13 episodes aired over the course of a two-year span, bringing the show's first season to an end. Home Movies: Season One presents all of these episodes on DVD for the first time.

The series' first season has little in terms of plot, but rather is a collection of general topics that are commonly associated with childhood. The success of the show is how it turns normal occurrences—homeroom crushes, soccer practice, bullies—into a bizarre, hypnotic character-driven comedy. Brendon Small (voiced by series co-creator Brendon Small) lives with his recently divorce mother, Paula (originally voiced by Paula Poundstone, but then replaced by Janine Ditullio when the show was resurrected) and baby sister, Josie (who, like Maggie Simpson, never speaks). Unlike most TV shows about kids, these eight-year-old children are curiously adult in their disposition and dialogue. Brendon makes short films with his two best friends, Melissa (Melissa Bardin Galeki) and Jason (H. Jon Benjamin). In a stroke of genius, the cast (who improvised most of the original episodes) managed to incorporate these movies into the story of the plot, not just as a device, but as a subtle way to show Brendon's reaction to the world around him.

A large part of that world involves soccer. Coach McGuirk (also voiced by H. Jon Benjamin), an alcoholic, overweight slob who hates soccer and knows next to nothing about it, dons the role of an unlikely father figure. In the episode Law and Boarder, after Brendon is fined for crashing his bike into a car, McGuirk encourages Brendon to run away, claiming that it builds character. Fortunately for Brendon, his mom, Paula, is an understanding, loving influence in his life. When Brendon accidentally loses the neighbor's cat in Brendon Gets Rabies, she takes full responsibility for diverting the owner's attention away from the cat and calms Brendon down as the two search for it. Most sit-coms make an effort to keep the snappy one-liners flowing, but the strength of Home Movies is that it is confident enough in its cast of actors and characters that it allows the comedy to develop over an extended period of time. A prime example of this is when Melissa's dad, Eric (Jonathan Katz), and Coach McGuirk shop for a house in Mortgages & Marbles. The result is a genuine development of character, leading the audience to form a relationship with these people that is surprisingly touching.

The animation is an acquired taste, especially the squiggle vision used in the first season. The backgrounds contain oddly shaped furniture and minimal detail, but it is tough to imagine this show any other way. The animation rightly embraces the low budget available to it, because the improv by the voice work would not mesh well with a highly sophisticated animation style. There's no depth in the animation, it is purely two-dimensional. There's something humorous about Brendon's Cyrano de Bergerac-esque nose, as well as Coach McGuirk's skinny legs that prop up his obese torso. Even the wild purple hair of both Melissa and her father is pitch-perfect for this show. Plus, little Jason, with his snotty nose and plump physique, is as cute as a bug's ear.

What really makes Home Movies fantastic, though, is the acting. There's really no way to describe the actors' delivery. One gets the sense while watching this that the characters don't know where there conversation is going to end up. A perfect example of this is in Method of Acting, when Jason finally gets the opportunity to direct a movie. The movies show a surprising depth of creativity for the trio of kids. Particularly interesting is the series' finale, Brendon's Choice, when Brendon begins to wonder about his father after winning a local film festival. The episode does a nice job of combing comedy and sentimentality to make a touching episode.

Adult Swim is a godsend for cartoon fans, because without it this gem would have passed into nothingness (the same could be said for Family Guy, which also has been resurrected thanks to re-runs on the Cartoon Network). Home Movies may not be for everybody, and even those that do like it will probably need some time to warm up to it, but it delivers plenty of big laughs with a lot of heart.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Even though "squiggle vision" is a distracting, misguided concept, the image transfer renders it nicely. Presented in 1.33:1, the image preserves the original aspect ratio of the TV show. Colors never bleed and detail is as strong as the source material will allow. Compression artifacts and edge enhancement are nonexistent, making this a strong effort by the people at Shout Factory. Any unsatisfactory elements of the image are a result of the initial animation and not the transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: It would have been nice if the sound had received a new Dolby Digital 5.1 to liven up the audio, but the mono mix gets the job done. There is no sound separation or directionality, as is to be expected, but the audio is clear without a trace of hiss on any episodes. The rock opera in Director's Cut sounds fantastic for a mono mix and is definitely the highlight of the set. It's not a robust presentation, but it is adequate.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
9 Feature/Episode commentaries by Jon Benjamin, Loren Bouchard, Jack Ferraiolo, Brendon Small
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
3 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Interviews With Cast and Creators—a collection of interviews with executive producer/co-creator Loren Bouchard, actor/co-creator Brendon Small, and actor Jon Benjamin.
  2. Short Films—two short films by Brendon Small, Jon Benjamin, and Bill Buckendorf.
  3. Animatics—animatics for the episodes Director's Cut and School Nurse (the latter with commentary).
  4. Animation Galleries—a series of still drawings of random material and character concepts.
Extras Review: This set proves one thing: more extras are not necessarily better. The packaging of the three-disc set has each disc in its own slim case, with a cardboard slipcase for all three of them. There is individual artwork on all three slim cases that make the packaging appetizing, but that is about the only positive supplement to this set.

Nine of the 13 episodes of commentary by executive producer/co-creator Loren Bouchard, actor/co-creator Brendon Small, and actor Jon Benjamin. Editor Jack Ferraiolo also joins them on the Director's Cut and Brendon's Choice. Not a single one of the commentaries is terribly useful. Part of this is a result of the episode's audio not having been turned down enough to easily distinguish the commentary from the dialogue (the fact that Small and Benjamin's voices are remarkably similar to their character's further accentuates this flaw). However, this is just a small portion of the problem. The three men are living examples of the show's humor, but unfortunately it doesn't work well in real life. Most of their jokes, particularly those about masturbation and drug use, become repetitive and tiresome after about five seconds. To further aggravate things, next to no insight is shed on the making of the show.

In addition to the commentaries are equally irritating interviews with Bouchard, Small, and Benjamin. Disc 1 offers a solo interview by Bouchard (23m:48s) in which he spends most of his time discussing irrelevant details about the making of Dr. Katz. Towards the end of the interview he does give some specific information about their contracts with UPN and Adult Swim, but it is too little, too late. On Disc 2, Small gives a solo interview that is painfully long (18m:44s) considering the lack of worthwhile information discussed. Does anybody really care that he used to be in a band? Same goes for Benjamin's interview on Disc 3 (20m:46s), in which it is hard to tell if he is being serious or he is joking. This is meant to be funny, but it grows tiresome and maddening very quickly. Yet, the final interview (16m:08s), in which the three men are together, actually is informative. Both Small and Benjamin explain the acting process for the show and how the show got started, but the last minute or so turns sour when they begin to tell jokes.

Each disc also contains a small animation gallery of random, unused drawings and character sketches. There isn't anything amazing in these pictures, but they do show some alternate character designs for the School Nurse and some of the movie costumes used by Brendon. There also are animatics that run with the finished episode audio for Director's Cut and School Nurse. The animation is sometimes extremely rough, even unfinished in a few shots. The School Nurse animatic has audio commentary by animator Davio Sanangelo, art director Aya Fukuda, and sound editor Will Shepard. Unlike the other commentaries, this one is actually worth listening to. They discuss the animation process, which consists of only seven animators for an entire episode, and how the trademark body suits the characters wear came to be. Like most of the interviews and commentaries found elsewhere on the disc, there is plenty of swearing that is bleeped out, which at times ruins the flow of the commentary.

Finally, to conclude this collection of extras, there are two short films. The Thor Von Clemson Advanced Fast Hand Finger Wizard Master Class (05m:44s), directed by and starring Brendon Small, is an unfunny spoof on cheesy instructional videos. Small gives an introduction to the video, explaining how he came up with it. If he was being honest, he'd probably admit that he had pounded one too many beers and this should be a warning not to indulge in the pleasures of alcohol. The second short, Baby Pranks! (04m:39s), is a spoof of Punk'd. Jon Benjamin and some unknown man named Bill Buckendorf claim directing credit for this pointless exercise in which they don't give a baby a bottle of milk. Wow! Now that's comedy. Any 12-year-old with a camcorder could turn out a better product than these videos. The only truly positive thing about these extras is that federal law does not require you to watch them.

Extras Grade: D+

 

Final Comments

Shout Factory has done a solid job with its treatment of Home Movies: Season One. The image is perfectly clean, which makes viewing the misbegotten squiggle vision animation as much of a pleasure as it can be. The mono sound mix comes across nicely, even if it isn't a dynamic mix. The only flaw is the supplemental material. Despite with there being an impressive number of extras, the participants are constantly trying to be funny and never quite succeed. Nonetheless, the quality of the show is more than enough reason to purchase this set.

 


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