Brendon Small, an ambitious eight-year-old filmmaker, shoots movies in his basement with his two best friends, while coming to terms with adolescence, life, and relationships.Brendon Small, an ambitious eight-year-old filmmaker, shoots movies in his basement with his two best friends, while coming to terms with adolescence, life, and relationships.Brendon Small, an ambitious eight-year-old filmmaker, shoots movies in his basement with his two best friends, while coming to terms with adolescence, life, and relationships.
Folks, this is brilliant stuff which will sink right into your cortex if you give it half a chance. Saying that it's about an eight year old who make movies with his friends in his basement just doesn't do it justice. "Home Movies" is an elusive blend of Oscar Wilde style "comedy of manners", deadpan pop culture lampoon, childhood memoir, character study and multi-part acapella choir. It almost always manages to sustain a certain wistful, tender attitude towards its characters even in the middle of some truly hilarious dialog exchanges and slapstick physical comedy. That's not an easy thing to do.
About the actual animation: Season 1 is indeed cursed with "Squigglevision", a truly annoying design choice, but the eye eventually accepts it and gets on with enjoying the proceedings. And fortunately, by Season 2 the creators decided just to go with straightforward "Flash" style animation, and the remaining episodes are much easier to watch. The animation never rises above the level of "barebones minimalism", but it is effectively harnessed in service to the story and voice work. In fact, if you pay attention you soon realize that the artwork is quite sophisticated in terms of storyboards and layouts - the "camera" zooms and pans and sets establishing shots and even manages some moments of delicate mood and beauty. For comparison think of the old cheaply made "Hanna Barbera" cartoons from the 70's, 80's and 90's ("Yogi Bear", "Flintstones" after the first season, cookie cutter crap like "Wacky Races" and "Josie and the Pussycats"). In terms of storytelling sophistication and care, this animation style compared to that is like London Broil compared to a Big Mac.
My favorite episodes (that I've seen) are probably "Bye Bye Greasy" and "The Art Of The Sucker Punch", and "Marbles and Mortgages", which contain a mix of parody, slapstick, and character study which many full blown feature comedy movie releases can't match. Watch these episodes carefully (especially the parts where H. Jon Benjamin's "Coach McGuirk" is involved), and you will see an awesome mastery of comedic timing and superb delivery that Woody Allen might envy. It's not so much that the writing is tight (though it is inspired) - rather, the whole thing has a loose, improvised, inspired feel, where even the dead ends and misfires are used as a springboard for further hijinks and blandishments.
I don't know how well Small and his group of creators would have done with furthur episodes if "Home Movies" had gone past the fourth season. This kind of inspired inanity can have a very short "shelf life" as the pressure of constantly coming up with fresh scripts and performances weigh upon the creators. But man, while these guys were in the groove, they were GOOD. I plan to get the Season 3 collection as soon as it comes out, and will relish completing the viewing of every episode there-in. My thanks to Small and his co-creators for a wonderful series that has given me many hours of pure delight.
- Oct 8, 2005