When this whole YouTube thing was just getting started, one man began to review the Nintendo games that ruined his childhood — often with beer, explosions, cursing, and human feces. Nearly a decade later, The Angry Video Game Nerd has his own movie where he goes up against the most infamous bad game of all time: E.T.
Good — The Popularity of Bad Games
The Angry Video Game Nerd in this film is more than the character we know and love from YouTube. Much of the film is getting to see the Nerd behind the scenes in his normal life — not actor/writer/director James Rolf’s life, mind you, but rather that of the Nerd character. Thus we see him working his day job at a GameStop knockoff and watch how he handles his internet celebrity — which is with patience and a good amount of grace, even when asked for the billionth time when he is going to review E.T. (or Eee Tee as it is titled in this movie).
But more than that, this film has fun playing around with the phenomenon of reviewing bad games and thus making them popular. The Nerd character does what he does not for comedy or online views, but for the sake of sparing today’s gamers from the games that ruined his childhood. He is somewhere between stupefied and horrified to learn that people are actually buying the games he calls terrible for no other reason than that he calls them terrible.
The film does a great job of portraying this idea of playing bad games because they are bad from the perspective of an outsider. Honestly, this viewpoint makes for some of the movie’s best gags.
Good — The Most Infamous Game in History
The Nerd has no wish to inflict Eee Tee — the game that destroyed his childhood — on gamers by reviewing it and making it popular. But when a sequel is being made — touted to be even worse than the original — and the company making it is looking for him to endorse the game, the Nerd finds himself compelled to destroy the legend of Eee Tee. The only way to do this? To prove the infamous E.T. Landfill a myth. Thus, the film spends a fair amount of time explaining the myth and the subsequent video game crash of 1983.
Of course, while this film was in post-production, the E.T. Landfill myth was proven to be true; however, the “truth” that the Nerd uncovers is far more ridiculous and entertaining than anything real life could manage.
Good — Just the Right Amount of Absurdist Humour
The Nerd exists in a world far more insane than our own. It’s got a car chase, a hyper-patriotic military general, aliens, a world-destroying god, and the occasional bout of explosive vomiting. From beginning to end, everything in this film is over-the-top — but not so much so as to derail the story.
The humour is often just part of the background. For example, when playing a popular MMO, the Nerd logs in using dial-up, an ancient PC with floppy disk drives, old giant headphones, and a mic more suited to a singer than for voice chat. More than that, the game appears in simplistic 16-bit graphics for him while appearing as a modern game for everyone else.
Other times, the gags are more blatant, as when seeking the creator of Eee Tee, the Nerd and his friends come to the home of a man who has turned his hallway into a pit of lava with platforms to jump across and fireballs to dodge. And while the film gets pretty insane by the end, it never quite hits “Super Mecha Death Christ” levels of randomness.
Mixed — A Love Letter to Classic Sci-Fi Films
But just as much as it’s about games, Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie is also about movies. Many of the medium’s most common clichés are lovingly recreated and then hilariously subverted — from romance scenes to spy movie-style twists. The car chase, for example, involves everything you’d expect — cardboard boxes, a fruit stand, two men moving a pane of glass — but ends in an unexpected, counter-intuitive way.
And while there is a fair amount of CG in this movie, there is far more in the way of practical effects. James Rolfe’s love of classic monster and sci-fi movies comes through in spades. The result is a film filled with decent-looking laser gun effects alongside robots made out of cardboard boxes and tinfoil. There are tons of obvious green screen shots, blatant uses of toy models, and bad puppeteering jobs. And while it looks cheesy at best, the bad effects are often pointed out in a way that adds to the absurd world that the Nerd lives in through lampshade humour.
In the end, The Angry Video Game Nerd makes its transition to film rather well. While there are a few typical Angry Video Game Nerd rants throughout the film, it feels more like one of his skits from the more ambitious reviews was spun off into a feature film. It’s cheesy, over-the-top, and a love letter to both games and classic sci-fi films. If you’re a fan of the Angry Video Game Nerd or a retro-game lover, you’ll probably get more than a few laughs out of this film.
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie was released online on September 2, 2014, and can be purchased on VIMEO.