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Movies: Home Movie

I heart documentaries about quirky people. So does Chris Smith, apparently, because he keeps crankin' them out every year or so. He also seems to have an affinity for the word "American," as in American Job, his first major motion picture, and American Movie, his second. It was the latter that got me interested in Smith. American Movie documented the struggle of Mark, a goofball would-be director trying to film a 30-minute horror movie named Coven. (That's "COE-ven," because "CUH-ven" rhymes with oven, Mark informs us, and therefore sounds stupid.) Although the audience is definitely encouraged to laugh at Mark rather than with him, American Movie still managed to portray the protagonist as someone worthy of respect.

So too for the subjects of Home Movie, people you manage to chuckle over and envy at the same time. Each of the five live in bizarre homes, houses that reflect (or amplify) their personalities: an alligator wrangler who on a houseboat in the Louisiana swamp, a Hawaiian woman who lives in a treehouse, a pair of hippies who inhabit an abandoned missile silo, a man who has created an electronic "hope of the future" , and a feline-crazed couple who have customized their home for their 17 cats. The range from the pragmatic (Bill Triegle, lives in the Bayou because of his occupation) to the fringe (Ben Skora, the electronics whiz, intends to return from the dead and inhabit the body of a robot), but each has tailored his home to fit his lifestyle, or vice versa.

Spreading the movie out over five people was a wise choice, as the charm of any given personality would probably wear thin quickly. And the whole thing clocks in at just over an hour, as Smith recognizes that it's better to make a short movie than one that overstays its welcome. To make up for the main feature's brevity, Home Movie is followed by Heavy Metal Parking Lot, a 15-minute "documentary" of a bunch of kids partying before a 1986 Judas Priest concert. Many people had told me ahead of time that this was hil-AIR-ious, but I'll confess that, while I quite enjoyed it, it was overlong even at 15-minutes. Really, as soon as the first shirtless, tattooed lunkhead screams "JUDAS PRIEST RUUUUUUUUULES!!!!!" at the camera, you've pretty much seen the whole film.

Some movies were meant be seen on the big screen. Home Movie is not one of them. The low-budget quality of the flick makes it entirely suitable for a rental. But the audience adds a lot to the experience (especially to Parking Lot ), so you may want to catch it in a theater if it's still lingering in your area. But don't tarry -- in the unlikely event that it's still around, I assure you it won't be for long.

Posted on July 26, 2002 to Movies