Monday, October 6, 2014

Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie - Review

Watch it on Vimeo On Demand
Since 2004 (before it was cool), James Rolfe has been reviewing old crappy video games on the internet as his character, the Angry Video Game Nerd. The Nerd's claims to fame have always been playing the worst and most infuriating retro games, making angry faces, taking swigs of beer, and finding new ways to string together swears and vulgarities. His scripted rage at poor game design can be amusing, but after ten years of video reviews, it's not the cursing that brings back the fans, it's the nostalgia, it's learning something new about gaming history, it's the camaraderie of having experienced the same or similar games yourself, and it's the likable character of AVGN who has somehow managed to make vulgarity endearing.
It's like Grumpy Cat stole AVGN's signature grumpy face.
The movie is more of a story and less of a review, although it does have that too. It turns out that in all his years reviewing terrible games, the Nerd had yet to review the infamous, worst game of all time, E.T. for Atari 2600, and his fans are demanding it. The Nerd, however, has found that his reviews of terrible games aren't warning people to stay away from the games, but actually driving his fans to try them and see how bad they are, and so he refuses to give E.T. the review his fans demand. Meanwhile, [a now confirmed] rumor has it that the game was so bad that Atari buried all the unsold copies in a landfill in the desert in New Mexico. The movie takes this urban legend and runs with it, throwing in conspiracy theories, aliens, and Kaijuu to expand the would-be simple story into the plot of a full-length movie. If you imagine National Treasure mixed with Spaceballs, only about video games, it's kind of like that. It's a fun roller coaster ride of craziness, humor, and a self-aware deconstruction of film clichés that will make real life AVGN fans squeal with glee. (Although, I should note that fans of Mike or the guitar guy, will be bummed to see that they are reduced to a cameo and that the Nerd is joined instead by two new costars.)
Some of the special effects are intentionally low budget...
James Rolfe's appreciation for cinematography frequently shines through by way of nods to similar films, and in camerawork that feels professional. The movie also makes use of a fair bit of special effects which range from surprisingly good to intentionally and hilariously low budget (obvious dummies and vehicle models). While I can't fault the film for its cheesy-by-design special effects, I did notice some audio hiccups on occasion where a character's monologue seemed audibly broken up by multiple takes that weren't well blended together. Also, while the writing is generally good and funny, the story of the E.T. desert burial gets told a few too many times (we get the picture already!) and even though the movie intentionally pokes fun at old and modern movie clichés, it overdoes it on occasion and gets a bit dangerously cheesy itself at points. And this might be just, like, my opinion, man, but when E.T. appears as a character in the movie, his voice and script felt like Jar Jar Binks levels of obnoxious.
Overall though, I found AVGN: The Movie to be quite enjoyable; more so than I anticipated. While it could have relied on a crutch of inside jokes from the AVGN web series (like the official AVGN game did), it almost never resorted to that and instead managed to break new ground in humor and story telling, putting it leaps and bounds above a regular Nerd episode. However, while you don't have to have seen AVGN's game reviews to enjoy this movie, it's definitely a movie for the fans. Even though its story is self-contained, I have a feeling that people who are unfamiliar with the Nerd just won't get the same enjoyment out of the movie as longtime fans. And, of course, if you don't like AVGN at all (or are my mom), you probably won't like the movie either. For fans of the Nerd, however, you owe it to yourselves to watch this fun and funny tribute to film, video games, B movies, and you, the fans.
Final review: Not bad!

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