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Firstly, let me declare an interest: I've been following Rolfe and The Angry Video Game Nerd since about 2007. I've bought his DVDs (mainly to contribute to his finances - since 90% of the content is available free online) and I regularly visit his website, Cinemassacre. His short videos are always a joy. They're informative and humorous, poking fun at the weird curiosities of video-games, board games, movies, TV shows and books.
However, when I heard about an AVGN movie, I was a little puzzled. How could that ever work?
The main problem is that The Nerd isn't really a true "character" as such, he's merely an exaggeration of James Rolfe's personality. Sure, the white shirt is a costume and the love of Rolling Rock is a vague attempt at character detail, but his main characteristic; the anger for awful games - well, that normally comes from embellished truth. This is why the most successful AVGN videos focus on the games that Rolfe has a true history with. Exposing the absurdities of 2003's "Big Rigs Over the Road Racing" (the subject matter of a recent episode) is a lot of fun, but it pales in comparison to The Nerd spitting bile at "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde"; a game which Rolfe hated as a child of the eighties and detests even more, decades later.
Nevertheless, The Nerd had built up a loyal army of fan and Rolfe had a guaranteed audience for a movie; irrespective of whether the format truly lent itself to one.
So, with format tinkering needed, where to go for the movie? The obvious answer would have been a small-scale character-based comedy. Explore and expand The Nerd; turn him into an actual character and, as a result,illustrate why he's deserving of a self-titled movie.
Unfortunately (and I take no pleasure in that term), Rolfe has always had desires to dream a little "bigger". Numerous episodes of AVGN and Board James have taken pretty radical deviations after the "reviews" have concluded. Viewers have been treated to bizarre story-lines with budget-stretching special effects, miniatures and fight-sequences. These have, for the most part, been fun - even if they weren't really the reason why Rolfe had been embraced so enthusiastically by the web community.
It are these episodes from which AVGN - THE MOVIE, takes its cues. Rolfe and co-director/co-writer Kevin Finn have delivered an unashamedly hokey B-Movie with an outlandish, wacky plot. There's no deep delving into the Nerd's character and the only "development" he goes through is overcoming a reluctance to do something incredibly minor. And if you're expecting more depth to Rolfe's performance, then you will be disappointed. I lost track of the number of times his reaction to something was simply a lip-pursing frown and a shake of the head.
There's also not a huge amount of comedy here. There are comic set-pieces, sure - but the intention seems to be that you will laugh at the sheer nonsense of scenes, rather than specifically funny dialogue. The closest I got to laughing was a bemused smile towards a couple of moments. And that's the biggest shame; I'd overlook the fact that this is a misguided format for AVGN : The Movie...if the resulting product had generated some decent laughs.
The plot is that a Games Company have developed a sequel to the infamous ET (or "Eee Tee" as it is here) and want the Nerd to review it, thus publicising it for them. This would have been the perfect springboard for a "Wayne's World" type story, with our protagonist being exploited by a large corporation. Alas, Finn and Rolfe seem to lose interest in this plot line...which is why we end up with a finale consisting of a chatty alien, a shiny spaceship and a giant existence-threatening monster.
Rolfe is accompanied by a surprisingly large cast. Most of the performers do what they can with the material but there isn't really much depth to the proceedings, so much of them are essentially cardboard cutouts. "Nerdy Sidekick", "Zany alien", "War-hungry General". I get that this is kind of The Point - but there needs to be more to "spoof" than purely pointing out that you know your way around clichés and conventions.
It's a little ironic that, by attempting to make the scale of this movie bigger, they end up showing the production up as far more amateurish. It seems that Finn and Rolfe dreamed a little too big in the scripting stage and, rather than reign things in with knowledge of budgeting, they simply kept things exactly as they were as they entered production. The result of this is that we get a huge amount of green-screen, miniatures and rubber suits. Yes, there's a charm to it (and Rolfe, as a big fan of Godzilla is obviously paying tributes), but it does make this seem more like the web sketch it came from, than the "Movie" it yearns to be.
I should stress that I didn't dislike AVGN : The Movie. It's far too long (shave off 40 minutes and it would be far tighter) and I was a little distracted during the sagging second third, but it's always watchable. It's certainly more entertaining than the output of The Asylum, with which it shares a similar "look".
And yet, I feel this is a missed opportunity. It's disappointing that Rolfe and Finn were so focused on pastiching monster movies and capers, rather than creating a movie as original as the web series that inspired it.
I leave you with the fact that Kevin Smith made his debut movie Clerks for less than $30,000. James Rolfe and Kevin Finn had 10 times that amount and made Angry Video Game Nerd : The Movie.
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