As the internet as we now know it edges closer to electronic puberty, there will be more and more films that explore its genesis and history. Such films will be chock full of historical references, interviews with renowned internet pioneers and full of dazzling graphics and hi-tech imagery. “Home Page” is not one of those films.
Instead, director Doug Block’s odd and scattered look at the early days of the modern internet — as opposed to the oft-cited embryonic university and/or Department of Defense nets of the ’60s and ’70s — loosely centers on one Justin Hall; a poster boy, if you will, of the modern internet’s genial harmlessness and heady innocence.
Hall functions as a sort of cursor for the film. A skinny twenty-one year old with a penchant for clown-like wardrobes and towering tufts of hair that make Peg Bundy look like a skinhead, Hall moves easily from the self-gratifying, ego-stroking world of his baring-it-all personal home page, to the scholarly demands of teaching internet ethics, to the labor-intensive, adrenaline-powered environment of a dot.com start-up. Somewhere during his adventures, Hall persuades Block to create his own home page; an endeavor that becomes a parallel storyline throughout the film as Block simultaneously studies the effect his page has on his family and himself.
Despite the heady subject matter of “Home Page” and these two mutually complementary storylines, this film still feels empty and scattered. Hall, strange appearance aside, isn’t nearly charismatic or interesting enough to carry the weight of the film on his slender shoulders. While he might be a celebrity inside the tight-knit world of techno-geeks, the public at large will most likely just sort of shrug their shoulders.
What hurts the film the most, however, is its lack of a solid story arc. Again, like the rings around Neptune, there’s something there, but it’s just too diffuse to generate any real momentum.
While there are some interesting moments in “Home Page,” overall the film does a pretty good imitation of its subject matter: it’s still trying to figure out just what it wants to be.