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DVD Review - Home Movies - Season 4

June 6th, 2006

Home Movies started its run on UPN, but lasted only six episodes before being cancelled. However, the show was then picked up by The Cartoon Network and ran for another three and a half years. But far from being forgotten, this relatively short-lived show started coming out on DVD in November of 2004. Now, nearly two years later the last season is finally out on DVD, but is it worth the wait?

Brendon, Melissa, and Jason and three eight-year olds who do what your typical eight-year do, go to school, play soccer, oh yeah, and make a lot of movies. Make a lot of really bad movies.

The next section contains spoilers, click here to skip to the Special Features section.

The cast of characters include:

  • Brendon Small - The leader of the group and director of the movies, not because he has any real talent, but because he owns the camera. His parents are divorced and he lives with his mother, Paula Small.
  • Melissa Robbins - The girl of the group and producer of the movies as well as lead actress. Transformed in season 3 and 4 into a much more confident and capable person and therefore became a more interesting character. Her parents are also divorced but she lives with her father, Erik Robbins.
  • Jason Penopolis - The youngest member of the group, he is also the most ... eccentric. I think that's the polite way to describe him. His parents are not divorced, but are inattentive. He practically lives with Brendon and his mother.
  • Paula Small - Brendon's mom and surrogate mother to both Melissa and Jason. She's a divorcee who works at the local college as a creative writer teacher. Her relationship with Brendon is more friendship than motherhood.
  • Coach John McGuirk - The three kids soccer coach and a male role model of sorts to Brendon. Hates soccer almost as much as he hates kids and spends most of his time drunk. Once dated Paula Small.
  • Erik Robbins - Melissa's dad, who is also divorced. Possibly the most mature member of the cast, but that's not saying much.
  • Ronald Lynch - Brendon and Melissa's teacher and one-time intern-Principal of the school. Relatively normal but has a weird obsession with cats.
  • Josie Small - Brendon's little sister, I don't think she says anything throughout the entire series.
There are also a few other characters that appear in numerous episodes:
  • Fenton Mulley - When Fenton grows up, he will become a petty bureaucrat who enjoys lording his small amount of power over those who need his help.
  • Walter and Perry - I have no idea what these two are. I'm not even sure they are human. However, I am sure that when they grow up they will be the next Leopold and Loeb.
  • Shannon - Your typical bully with no delusions to what he is. Doesn't make many appearances, but is always central to the plot when he does. Is played by Emo Philips, who doesn't get enough work in my opinion.
  • Junior Addleburg - Another kid in their class who main defining characteristic is he talks with a strange accent that I can't quite place. His father makes several appearances in the series as well and talks in the exact same way, and I don't mean with the same accent, I mean with the same voice.
  • Duane - Metalhead, leader of the band S.C.A.B., and man of few words. He provides most of the music for the movies Brendon, Melissa, and Jason make and even makes the occasional appearance.
One a side note, I've read a few reviews where the critic mentions how much they hate Fenton, this hatred is even mentioned in one of the commentary tracks and seems to be shared by some of the people that make the show. However, I didn't mind Fenton, in fact, he was clearly needed in a number of plots. On the other hand, Walter and Perry drove my up the wall. Their voices were instantly irritating and the way the talked over each other was just too much to take.

Episode Highlights - Season 4 was not as strong as season 3, which is something even the creators admitted to in the commentary. However, there are still several very funny episodes. Here are some key impressions on individual episodes:

  • Camp - The three kids head to Camp Campingston, a performing arts camp run by a wannabe, name-dropping caterer with delusions of grander. What was supposed to be the greatest summer ever quickly turns into a week of hell. They Might be Giants guest star as the music consolers and leaders of Rabbit Troop, (Rabbit Troop sucks!) Their performances and the end song makes this a great season openers. Also, Coach McGuirk freak-out in the woods is one of the funniest scenes in the entire series.
  • Bye, Bye Greasy - Brendon gets to direct the school play, "Bye, Bye Greasy" and as the name implies, it is a bad rip-off of Grease. The show doesn't go as smoothly when when Shannon, the school bully, demands to be cast in the musical in the lead role. Add in other complications like Melissa's newly discovered, (and immediately forgotten), kiwi allergy, an untimely but well deserved suspension, stage fright, mechanical troubles, and more and this becomes one of the most memorable episodes of the year.
  • Everyone's Entitled to My Opinion - Brendon gets a job writing movie reviews for a website while Ron Lynch become intern-principal, which immediately goes to Coach McGuirk's head. The A-Story here is not the best, but seeing Coach McGuirk abuse power that he just doesn't have is fun.
  • The Wizard's Baker - Not one of my favorite episodes of the season, but I love that song! "I'm a wizard, wizard, oh wizard, wizard, oh wizard man!"
  • Curses - The kids make a film with sexually mature themes and plenty of swearing, which instantly becomes a huge hit amongst their friends, but get them into trouble. As a result, they have to re-shoot a cleaned up version of the movie while Brendon is stuck with a curse jar. In the meantime, Erik meets a woman at his journal writing class, but Melissa freaks at the idea of him dating and refusing to come home staying at Brendon's house, much to the horror of Brendon. While I didn't like the b-story with McGuirk taking the journal writing class, the rest of the episode is perhaps my favorite of the season. One last note, when Melissa dresses up as the Sex-Bot, she uses balloons as fake breasts and I actually caught myself thinking that the tied off ends of the balloons should be covered by her bikini else it looks to provocative. You know, cause they look like nipples. ... I can't be the only one who thought that.
  • Honkey Magoo - Not the best episode in the group, but I just had to say that Tonto was clearly the better pet than the puppy. I fail to see why Jason wanted the dog so much in the first place.
  • Those Bastards Tried to Cheat Me - Brendon cheats on a test, Melissa helps McGuirk cheat on his driving test, and Jason thinks the girl he is interested in is cheating on him with Brendon. There's a lot going on in this episode and that gives rise to some dramatic moments. ... at least dramatic compared to most cartoons.
  • Definite Possible Murder - As a parody of Rear Window, this episode should have been better than it was.
  • Temporary Blindness - A good episode but it is the Timmy movie that is a highlight for me. In fact, I consider those portions to be my favorite movie from Home Movies.
  • Focus Grill - The series finale, and the makers knew it was and were able to really wrap up the series in a great way and show why the characters acted the way they did and showed some real character development.
Some more general notes of the episodes:

A lot of the show's charm comes from the fact that while the main characters are kids, the people providing their voices are not. This, combined with the amount of improve involved, leads to the kids acting in a way that normal 8-year olds would not. For instance, they used cultural references, especially in their movies, that no 8-year old would get. I've always proponent of the theory that taking kids and making them act and talk like adults is always funny.

Other highlights for me were the music, which was universally good, (except for the occasions where it was intentionally bad, but even then its usually entertainingly bad). Hell, I even like the theme song enough to put it into heavy rotation in my MP3 list.

Special Features:
Many times when shows are released on DVD, the first couple of seasons have the most special features while later sets are lacking. The reason for this is simple, if you bought the first two or three seasons, chances are you will buy the next season even if there are few or no special features. This is not the case with
Home Movies as season 4 has more special features that previous releases. In fact, it has almost as much in the way of extras as the previous three seasons combined.

Audio Commentary:
Leading off the list of special features are about 2-dozen audio commentary tracks with every episode having at least one, and a couple have three. Most of the audio commentaries are by the creators, Loren Bouchard and Brendon Small, but they are sometimes joined by other members of the cast and there are even one or two commentaries by fans. Unfortunately, these last ones are generally the weakest commentaries since they know little about the behind the scenes of the show.

The tone varies with Loren Bouchard and Brendon Small providing the most insight and behind-the-scenes information, while the ones with more cast members tend to be more reminiscing and just plane screwing around. Almost all are worth listening, some repeatedly.

Animatics - There are basically the unfinished cartoon. Interesting to look at, but lacks replay value. The three episodes with animatics are Camp, The Wizard's Baker, and Those Bitches Tried to Cheat Me.

Other Special Features include...

Disc 1 - The Beginnings of the Genesis of the Origin of Home Movies - The Very First Sessions with Loren Bouchard.- 22:35
Loren Bouchard intros a series of audio clips from the very, very beginning including Brendon Small's audition, the first scene with Brendon and McGuirk, etc. There are also some audio clips that really show the collaboration process that went into making the show. Visually, these are very simplistic, but worth checking as it is a fascinating look at the very beginnings of the show. On a side note, Loren Bouchard talks about having the whole audio session on the disc, but you have to hunt to find it. (Hint: it's on the main menu.)

Disc 2 - Home Movies Audio Outtakes Jukebox
Allows you to randomly check out some audio clips that weren't used in the movie. Some of these clips are funny, but the format makes it hard to tell when you've heard them all and impossible to repeat just your favorites. Disc 3 - No additional special features are found here.

Home Movies - Bonus CD
Nearly every song every played on the show is found on this DVD. But while they have 52 tracks here, they only included one of the songs from the fourth season premiere, Camp, and none of the ones by They Might be Giants. I was especially upset that they didn't include Taste the Fame, which was my favorite song from the episode. Even so, there's a great collection of songs on this DVD, some of which have made their way into my MP3 collection.

Home Movies - final season was awards the DVD Pick of the Week honor when it first came out, and it is well-deserving of that title. The episodes are nearly universaly great and even the weak ones are funny enough for repeat viewing, and this 3-disc set is packed with special features making it a must have for any fan. Not only that, but even if you've never seen the show, watching this DVD will convert you. Of course, if you've never seen the show, start with Season 1.

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