Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie is fanfare to its core. It’s also a movie that was funded by fans through a highly successful Indiegogo campaign manned by filmmakers/screenwriters Kevin Finn and the Nerd himself James Rolfe.
By avid YouTube subscribers and other online viewers having such an integral role in the making of Finn and Rolfe’s film, I’m not completely surprised to see the finished product completely pander to that crowd. As someone who has watched practically every one of the Nerd’s reviews online, I was satisfied from a fan’s point-of-view.
What I’m disappointed with is how Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie doesn’t try to be more than just fanfare when other recent niche films have done so quite easily.
Earlier this year, ‘Marshmallows’ caught Veronica Mars and were pleased with the big screen adaptation. What made the film even more memorable was that outsiders could watch the long-awaited film and enjoy the mystery Veronica was trying to solve.
Why not take a more recent example? Swearnet: The Movie made the Trailer Park Boys appreciators happier than pigs in…er…”mud”, but the comedy worked on a meta level that any audience (over the age of 17) could have fun with.
With Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie, only gamers and the Nerd’s audience are going to “get” the movie. There are tons of references to video games and past online reviews. The Nerd’s oddly descriptive – and amusing – potty mouth is present throughout the feature, and cameos from past guests line the background of some scenes. Audiences will recognize the satire and the messages the movie has going for it, but all other jokes will go unnoticed.
What I admire about Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie – as well as what I find frustrating – is that it’s been been written by bright minds. The story is supported by the use of an urban legend surrounding lost cartridges of E.T. for the Atari 2600. Unfortunately for Finn and Rolfe, that legend was proven true a little while ago, but that’s not the point. The point is how nicely integrated these details are within the overall narrative, and how the discovery will affect everyone involved.
The tongue-in-cheek plays at how manufacturers treat the gaming community is hardly ham-fisted, and sound like it’s been truly written by people who hate to see others treated as suckers. Rolfe also has cathartic enjoyment humouring the fact that his riotous negative reviews provoke others to shell out cash to buy a personal copy; just to see how bad each game is.
Finn and Rolfe have gotten away with using Atari’s logo and likeness in their feature (Atari is thanked in the end credits), but movie goers can see just how far copyright laws have taken the filmmakers. E.T. is Eee Tee, and the image of the extra-terrestrial now dons an awkward moustache. It wouldn’t have been such a glaring problem if the film hadn’t associated director Steven Spielberg and his family classic in an intro to the infamous video game snafu. Although, that beginning sequence about the legend is both informative and well made, the audience never really knows if we’re in a fictitious universe.
Outside of the film’s usage of a real life conversation piece, a lot of the material surprisingly falls flat. It’s tough to blame the actors because it appears everyone is game for what the film is throwing at them. However, I would’ve liked the Nerd’s manager Cooper to have more to do. Cooper is played by Jeremy Suarez, and he’s not so much acting out a character as he is acting out a number of sidekick clichés. Maybe that was the joke.
What takes the blame? Like a boomerang, it all comes back to playing towards the fans. The jokes are all aimed towards that geeky niche, and brings that sense of ridiculousness to any of the big brawls. Unless you’re a hardcore who loves the series’ drawn out sketch work, you just won’t “get” it. There’s a lot of chroma key and work with miniature models, oodles of crude and wacky creatures, and a simple story that is convolutedly stacked upon until the movie borderline combusts.
I was also getting mixed signals when it came to how the film treated its target audience. Finn and Rolfe may be playing towards their fanbase and constantly showing how they adore their support, but they represent the Nerd’s fans as snivelling flunkies. It’s a bit cardboard, if you ask me. I did, however, enjoy cameos from Nostalgia Critic Doug Walker and Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman. Both sightings, I expect, got huge roars of applause when the film was touring.
So, I don’t know. Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie has me feeling conflicted and lukewarm. It will please the fans and if that was the film’s only goal, Finn and Rolfe can call their film a success. But, I wanted this movie to be more prospective; especially one co-helmed by someone as smart and humbling as Rolfe. But unfortunately, no matter how grateful it is, Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie is bloated and pretentious.