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Home Movie

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Home Movie

Starring: Chris Smith
Director: Chris Smith
Rated: NR
RunTime: 65 Minutes
Release Date: May 2002
Genre: Documentary

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

What makes a good documentary filmmaker? Actually there is no single recipe.

Some, like Steve James (HOOP DREAMS), are gifted storytellers. Others are investigative reporters like William Gazecki (WACO: RULES OF ENGAGEMENT). Some are great visual stylists such as Leni Riefenstahl (TRIUMPH OF THE WILL). And some are just natural stand-up comics like MICHAEL MOORE (BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE).

But for some documentarians, their biggest contribution comes in deciding exactly who and what to film in the first place. So it is with Errol Morris (FAST, CHEAP & OUT OF CONTROL) and so it is too with HOME MOVIE's Chris Smith. Fresh from his critical success with AMERICAN MOVIE, he decided to make a film called HOME MOVIE about a collection of quirky homes and their equally eccentric owners. This film is entertaining because of the subjects he found and not because of any insightful questions or artistic filming. The stars of the movie are the houses, with their occupants becoming the cute supporting cast.

The movie, which could have been improved by deleting one or two houses and staying longer with the others, opens with the least interesting house of all, a Louisiana houseboat owned by an alligator farmer. The owner is a likeable good ol' boy, but, every time they switched to him, I found myself wishing I could change the channel to a different home.

My favorite is a Jetson's type of house in Illinois. Fully automated, it is like the house of the future from a 1950's sci fi film. It isn't computerized. Instead, everything is controlled by electronic relays and switches. There's even a big, hokey robot that looks like it escaped from the set of "Lost in Space." Punch a button in the bathroom and some flower pots move to reveal a hidden toilet. Want some soap to wash your hands? Just flip a switch, the soap dish retracts, and a clumsy mechanical hand comes out of the wall to hand you your soap. Or, more likely, drops it.

Another favorite of mine, being a cat lover, is a couple who has turned their house into a home for cats. They have over one-hundred feet of overhead walkways for their cats and have special cutouts in the walls for the cats to go between rooms.

A guy in Kansas, who is the sanest of the lot, lives underground with his wife in an abandoned missile silo. It has a 120 foot tunnel to connect parts of their complex. Finally, an older woman lives in a tree house in one of the most remote areas of the Hawaiian Islands.

A naturally funny film, HOME MOVIE makes you crave Chris Smith's next movie. One wonders what the next one will be called. It's almost like an SAT question: After AMERICAN MOVIE and HOME MOVIE, what is the next in the sequence? a) FOREIGN MOVIE, b) STUDENT MOVIE, c) CAR MOVIE or d) THE MOVIE.

HOME MOVIE runs just 1:05. It is not rated but would be G and is acceptable for all ages.

My son Jeffrey, age 13, gave it ***. He said that he thoroughly enjoyed it, finding it well made and fascinating.

The film may still be playing somewhere in the United States. It is not yet available on video.

Copyright 2002 Steve Rhodes

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