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
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
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
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