It’s actually kind of insane that we now live in a world where this movie is easily accessible. It has been talked about for literally years but as of this week it’s available on Vimeo on Demand with more platforms potentially coming down the road. Its 5 bucks to rent and 10 bucks to own. I went for own, figured it was more worth it. So after reviewing both of Chris Bores’ movies, there was absolutely no way I wasn’t going to talk about this one.
I’ve presented my thoughts on the Angry Video Game Nerd in my DVD reviews but just in case I’ll do a quick write-up here. I legitimately love the first few years of the show. Basically everything that is featured in the first four DVD volumes. There is some fantastic material in there and it’s important to remember that the concept of angrily reviewing old video games was a new concept at the time. I still enjoy the newer stuff but it’s hard to deny that the concept is starting to grow a little stale and there is really only so much that can be done with the idea after over 100 episodes. I was personally hoping the movie would do something fresh and only stick with the base level idea of the show (shit jokes and angry rants about old video games) to a small extent and was happy to discover that this is largely the case.
The plot centers around the Atari 2600 game E.T., a game so notoriously bad that a story surrounds it about how Atari buried all of the cartridges in a desert landfill. In a bit of unfortunate timing, this movie largely centers around whether the tales are true when earlier this year we discovered that they very much are after an excavation led to the discovery of the long buried cartridges. Of course there is a lot more going on here than just that. Actually if anything, the plot could be a little too ambitious as it covers aliens, monsters, conspiracies and all sorts of stuff that connects together fairly well though does end up still feeling a little scattered.
The movie couldn’t hinge on just the Nerd (who for the record is always referred to as such throughout the movie and is never given a proper name) in his basement reviewing games so we are given some other characters to pair up with him. Foremost is Cooper, his best friend and co-worker. It’s a bit strange at first to suddenly be given this character who we’re told is the Nerds friend and that they go way back, despite him never having been mentioned in any capacity at any point until now. The character of Cooper is ok, a little bland and we don’t learn a whole lot about who he is and why he and the Nerd are friends. He is involved in some decent slapstick moments and has a few funny lines but I can’t help but wish there was more to the character.
The other new protagonist is Mandi. She is an executive for Cockburn Industries, a company planning to release a sequel to E.T. (which is spelled Eee Tee here in order to get around any potential copyright issues) that will be even worse than the original. The plan is to get the Nerd to endorse it as sales show people will buy the games he tears apart just to see how bad they are. She goes undercover as a fan and tags along with them to the Atari landfill. I was a bigger fan of her character. She doesn’t get stuck playing the standard love interest, which is what I expected. She gets some of the funnier lines/moments in the movie and feels a bit more fleshed out than the Cooper character.
There’s also General Dark Onward, the primary villain. He spends most of the movie rolling around in a tank thing and yelling. He’s not a particularly memorable villain but he gets the job done and also gets a few of the better lines in the movie. His henchwoman McButters is also quite good.
There’s a lot more I could talk about in terms of plot and characters. As mentioned, there is a ton of stuff happening in this movie which does backfire against it. I don’t blame James for wanting to get as much as possible into this film as how often do you get the chance to make an actual feature length movie. However the result is a bloated running time and long stretches of exposition, the latter being something I never would have expected to be a problem in an Angry Video Game Nerd movie. But really, there is a chunk in the middle of the film that is devoted almost entirely to set-up as one character simply provides a long chunk of exposition. Thankfully there are visuals to go along with it but it still can’t help but bog things down. The movie is never boring, but the pace could use some tightening up.
The performances are mixed but would say they are more often good than bad. There are some stiff line readings and even James doesn’t feel as natural here as he comes off on the show, but there’s nothing here I would call actively bad, especially considering that it’s a low budget affair. I’ve definitely seen a few comments disparaging the acting and maybe it’s because I tend to heavily dabble in the world of direct to DVD horror, but I was fine with it. Believe me I have seen many, many movies where the acting is far worse than here.
Another element that will be hit and miss for many people is the special effects, which are surprisingly plentiful. Hardly a scene goes by without some sort of digital or practical effects shot. Hell they even recreated all the video games that are showcased to ensure they didn’t have to deal with any potential copyright issues. Again it’s important to remember just how small the budget for this production is but even still, I was pretty impressed with the effects in general. Yes there are some poor green screen shots and lots of blatant miniatures but I found the latter charming as all hell. James has been very up front about how big a fan he is of the classic monster and B movies and AVGN: The Movie is clearly meant to pay tribute to these films. Yes the budget clearly affected things but clearly a lot of this was intentional as well. If you don’t at least crack a smile when an unconvincing, big headed doll is used in place of a human being in the establishing shot of a monster’s hand, then a lot of this film isn’t going to sit right with you. Me? I loved that shit.
So how about the laughs? Does this thing bring the laughs? For the most part yeah. There are some clunkers for sure. I can’t believe someone actually said the line “Better to be pissed off than pissed on”. That bit would have been stale 20 years ago. Also many of the typical Nerd rants/complaints are lifted straight from the show (“It makes me feel like having an anal evacuation” and so forth) which is a bit of a bummer as that’s the one thing you expect and it would be nice to be given some new material there. However outside of that there are some good laughs to be had though I’m not going to spoil any of them here. Generally though the movie is just fun. It’s such a mishmash of genres and the fact it even exists is kind of insane so I enjoyed watching it as how often does a movie this fucking strange come along?
All that being said, there was one thing in particular that made me enjoy this movie as much as I did, and that’s the sheer amount of effort and passion on display here. No matter what you may think of the film itself, you could certainly never say it was lazy. James fully embraced the idea of making this movie and the scope is far higher than I could have expected. The Nerd Room is only featured in the opening scene and from there you are given a number of locations, effect sequences and even a couple of action sequences (they certainly aren’t terrific but again, far better than I would have expected). There is a lot happening here and me personally, I couldn’t help but admire what was accomplished with this movie.
Usually I would say that if you’re a fan of the nerd character then this is an easy recommendation but I’m not sure if that’s actually the case here. The movie is a very different beast from the show and anyone expecting lots of angry rants about video games are going to be disappointed as once you pass the first act, there is almost none of that to be found. I would say if you enjoy the kind of movies that are highlighted in the annual Monster Madness marathon then this should be right up your alley as James went and made something that would fit into it perfectly. It’s also worth giving it a shot even if you’re not overly familiar with the character as my wife, who has only seen maybe five episodes of the show in their entirety, quite enjoyed it as well. Yes there are many references that only fans will get but nothing that would detract from it overall.
I’m reading that the movie is now available on torrent sites but don’t you dare pull that shit. After the ridiculous amount of work that went into this (up to eight years including the writing process) the least you can do is pay the 5 bucks to rent it though honestly, it’s worth going the 10 to own it. I feel good supporting something like this as it’s clearly a passion project that happens to be a great deal of fun to watch. The blu ray/DVD releases have already been confirmed to contain a ton of extras so I’ll be grabbing that as well. It’s certainly not a masterpiece, but it’s a fun ride that I’m glad found a way to exist.
Oh and more thing I want to mention is that the score by Bear McCreary kicks ass and is also available on iTunes. It’s definitely worth checking out.