Home Room (2003)
By: Paul Ryan on July 25, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Peacock Films (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 87 minutes
The Movie
Director: Uwe Boll
Starring: Jurgen Prochnow, Kett Turton, Michael Belyea, Clint Howard, Michael Pare, Elisabeth Rosen
Screenplay: Robert Dean Klein
Music: Reinhard Besser
Tagline: Violent Lesson... Deadly Learning
Country: Canada / Germany
AKA: Heart of America
I honestly feel sorry for Uwe Boll. It's doubtful that there has been another director in this world who has been quite so vituperated against. Sure, he may have churned out some less-than-great adaptations of video games in the past few years, but the level of venom directed at the man would make you think he'd run over the dogs of every movie blogger and videogame fan on the planet. This said, House of the Dead and Alone in the Dark were pretty bad. But before you write Dr. Boll off entirely, you might - just might - want to give this little-known opus a look.

It's the start of the last day of school at Riverside High, run by the fatherly Principal Lewis (Jurgen Prochnow) and teachers and students are rolling in to campus. Both the teachers and the student body have their share of hard workers and slackers. On this big day, the students are preparing to say goodbye to one phase of their lives and welcome the responsibilities of the adult world. Two of the students, Daniel (Kett Turton) and Barry (Michael Belya) have their own goodbye planned for the school. Having been brutalized for years by a gang of bullies led by stoner Ricky (Brendan Fletcher), the pair are plotting a murderous payback, to be delivered during their final Home Room class…

Yes, it's an Uwe Boll message film. Bolling For Columbine anyone?

Sorry. Couldn't resist…

Home Room is not a great film by any means, but it isn't an especially bad one either. After a wobbly start utilizing statistics on American school violence (complete with an inappropriate voiceover that tells us what we are already reading, ala Boll's Alone in the Dark) the film settles into a watchable, if superficial, look at high school brutality. The cast, for the most part, is quite good, even if the casting is occasionally questionable (Michael Pare as an English teacher?) and the students are mostly made up of the usual 22-year-old movie teenagers. The characters are simply drawn, though the actors (especially Brendan Fletcher as head bully Ricky and Clint Howard as Daniel's abusive father) do go a long way to giving them more depth than the script allows. Where the film falls apart is at the climactic massacre. It's too short and too rushed, as if the filmmakers were straining to wrap things up quickly. There's not enough time given to reflection by the characters or much of a believable aftermath. Instead, we get more clumsy statistics about real-life shootings (yes, even Columbine), delivered with that same needless voiceover.

A shame really, because this film shows that Boll is capable of more as a filmmaker. Maybe if he steered away from videogame adaptations and concentrated on other genres, his reputation might yet improve. Because I'm a sucker for an underdog, I'll keep hoping.
While the cover states that this disc is in 4x3, the film is presented in a 1.78:1 ratio, enhanced for widescreen sets. I noticed some mild pixelation at times, but otherwise this is a decent transfer, with solid colors and detail. However I did have trouble with the disc itself. It refused to play at all on the first player I tried it on and skipped the menu system entirely on another. I'm not sure if this was a pressing error or a glitch with my equipment, but I can say the problem was quite annoying.
Dolby 2.0 Stereo is on offer here. No complaints here. Dialogue is constantly easy to understand and Rienhard Besser's often overbearing music score comes through loud and clear.
Extra Features
Nothing relating to the film itself, though you do get three trailers for other Flashback/Peacock releases which automatically run when you press "play movie" on the main menu. Scary Godmother: Some cgi-animated kiddie thing. Bah, humbug. Small Miracles: A very British family film with Jonathan Pryce. Fugitives Run: A dire-looking David Hasslehoff comedy whose highlight seems to be the sight of the Hoff electrocuting himself.
The Verdict
Home Room: The Heart of America shows that the much-maligned Uwe Boll is capable of better things than his detractors give him credit for. While flawed, it is watchable, and worth a look. Flashback's budget DVD presentation is serviceable, especially considering that it is going as low as three dollars at some retailers. Hopefully you just won't have the problems with the disc that I did!
Movie Score
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