I can’t put into words the excitement I had for “The Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie.” Co-director/writer/star James Rolfe is one of my biggest inspirations as a film and game critic, and without a doubt one of my heroes. And now I can’t believe I’m about to spend this review telling you how terrible his debut film is.
The Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Available for Digital Streaming
Cinemassacre Productions and Ugly Skinny Pilgrim
“The Angry Video Game Nerd” was the pioneering internet “gamer” show. Beginning in 2004, “AVGN” is a comedic video game review series featuring Rolfe, acting as a hard-drinking, foul-mouthed retro gamer, takes extended critical looks at some of the worst games of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Some of my best middle school memories involve staying up way too late with my friends, watching “AVGN” after “AVGN.” Today, YouTube is flooded with gaming content. Pretty much every major game review show online today has “AVGN” to thank for establishing its format.
Rolfe’s debut film, a crowd-funded, feature-length action-comedy, is so riddled with bad editing decisions and awful pacing that even I, the biggest “AVGN” fan I know, had trouble getting through it.
The film follows Rolfe’s signature “Nerd” character as he reluctantly sets out to review “E.T.” for the Atari 2600, widely regarded as the worst video game ever made. Taking place mostly in the Nevada desert near the real-life burial site of thousands of unused “E.T.” cartridges, The Nerd becomes entwined with a massive government conspiracy — it turns out the “E.T.” cartridges hold the secrets of Area 51.
The movie is filmed well enough, but the editing is problematic. The frequent transitions and extended driving/traveling shots make this film egregiously long and boring. “AVGN” is purposefully filled with low-budget practical special effects, but are often so poorly filmed, they’re laughable in a pitiful way. Often, shots linger on spaceships, robots and rockets that are very clearly toys, and there are extended sequences involving puppet aliens that induce groans rather than laughs.
Worse than the technical problems, though, is that the film just isn’t that funny. I laughed more at the 20-minute “AVGN” episode I loaded up while I was downloading the film from Vimeo than I did during the film itself. Jokes go by; about 95 percent of them don’t hit. The humor wasn’t nearly funny nor frequent enough for the film to be a comedy. The action scenes were incredibly poorly choreographed. I bet Rolfe and the crew would argue that this was for comedic effect, but they didn’t feel intentional enough to fill that category either. Without good action or comedy, was this film simply a love-fest for “AVGN” fans? No. There wasn’t even enough fan service to keep me interested. At the script’s best, it was mildly clever with a few well-timed pop culture references that garnered a smile or two. At its worst, it was cringe-inducingly unfunny, and sometimes even offensive, as many of the film’s jokes play on insensitive gender stereotypes about gamers. One awful instance in particular goes down much like Sofia Vergara’s 2014 Emmys skit, self-aware in its sexism but still sexist.
The vast majority of this movie is boring, uninspired dialogue between The Nerd and two new characters, the Nerd’s fictional partner Cooper (Jeremy Suarez, “The Bernie Mac Show”) and corporate executive Mandi (Sarah Glendening, “All My Children”). Why would they introduce new main characters into a movie about a show that’s been running for 10 years? Why not make Mike Matei the Nerd’s sidekick? He’s been second-in-command of “AVGN” all along, but in this film he’s painfully reduced to a cameo appearance. Sure, he’s not an actor, but Suarez and Glendening could only be called “actors” in the loosest form of the word. In fact, the acting in this movie is downright garbage across the board. It’s purposefully hammy B-movie style acting, but once again, it’s just not intentional enough to be enjoyable.
The one entirely positive takeaway from this film is the soundtrack. Composed by the fabulous Bear McCreary (you know his music from SyFy’s “Battlestar Galactica” and AMC’s “The Walking Dead”) the score contains both excellent re-imaginings of the “AVGN” theme and fun new tracks.
In the classic “AVGN” review of the 1989 Nintendo product-placement film “The Wizard,” The Nerd recalls being far more interested in the Nintendo games than the film itself, but there weren’t enough references to keep him interested. Now I know what he meant — all I wanted out of this movie was “AVGN,” and there wasn’t enough. Game reviews were the heart of “AVGN” and to watch his character wrapped up in some two-hour, reviewless (until the end credits), B-movie nonsense plot was incredibly disappointing. James, you’re still my hero, but I must say that your words ring true here:
“What the hell is all this shit? I just want to see the damn games!”