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The House of Tomorrow

We are powerfully imprisoned in these Dark Ages simply by the terms in which we have been conditioned to think.

Circling around ideas of music, faith, and the isolation of progress, The House of Tomorrow (based on a novel by Peter Bognanni) does little else than provide an endearing portrait of youth and parenting without the requisite quality to justify the time spent. A thin script by Peter Livolsi that could have been readily improved had he read a single book on punk history and added a few tidbits throughout the film (example: Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower). A montage at the start, a quote in the end, a few name drops throughout; very basic things to improve on what was otherwise a forgettable film debut about troubled teens finding kindred spirits in the formation of a band (The Rash). A few more scenes that build on the romantic dynamics of the bubble boy Asa Butterfield (Hugo) and Maude Apatow (This Is 40), a few more scenes to unravel the building of a friendship between Butterfield and Alex Wolff (Patriots Day), a few more scenes that build on the dire fragility of Wolff’s illness, and a few more scenes diving into the innovative mind of  Buckmister Fuller and punk-music philosophy. The run time (85 min) of the film certainly allowed for such “novelties,” choosing instead to go the route of what Brian Orndorf (Blue-Ray.com) described as “a limited representation of musical and domestic liberation.”

A single highlight and possibly only incidental to the intentions of the film was the role of Nick Offerman (apparently determined to make as many sub-par music films as he can, see this years) who, in his seeming role of youth pastor, demonstrates a powerful influx of faith into secular culture in a demonstration of profound Christian acceptance. There is meaningful lessons that could have been drawn out further in his role as father and role model. (I’m almost glad that Livolsi didn’t try his luck with religion given how banal religion is used in films today: exceptions being, e.g., Tree of LifeThe SilenceThe Young Pope, The Fountain).

The video bits from Fuller worked well throughout the film, but a serious script would have weaved together these various themes touching on technological innovation, punk as a cultural phenomenon, and the reconciling role of religion, in a grand narrative, that speaks to Fuller’s vision surrounding life sustainability. Profound ideas could have been raised by comparing a scarcity of resources with our scarcity for tolerance—ideas surrounding innovations for design science in anticipating current affairs and the role technology, music, and religion play to bring us into a Whitman-esque togetherness. (“And these tend inward to me, and I tend outward to them \ And such as it is to be of these more or less I am.”)

Certainly enough good material was provided for Livolsi if he wanted to write a worthwhile movie, but he didn’t, and almost half of the critics figured this out. Some weren’t even close, however. A stand-alone ovation is in order for the embarassing display of film criticism from Colin Covert (Star Tribune) who gave this film a perfect score (as he does so often). To quote Fuller: “I’m not trying to counsel any of you to do anything really special except dare to think.”

I expect I’m asking too much from today’s critics.

RATING: C

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