Gamers is clearly a labor of love for Christopher Folino who independently wrote, directed, produced, and edited this mockumentary about five middle-aged guys, who after playing a minimum of 50 hours a week for 23 years, are on the cusp of breaking the world role-playing record. Folino's familiarity with the intricacies of role playing games (RPGs), the idiosyncrasies of players, and the ensuing odd group dynamics, is readily apparent. To the extent that Gamers is funny, it's funny because it's a good-natured exaggeration of reality, in much the way that This is Spinal Tap was a good-natured exaggeration of a certain kind of hair metal band many viewers were familiar with.
Unfortunately, Folino lacks Christopher Guest's chops as a writer and director. Folino's characters and scenario are too limited and the jokes are too thin to sustain the 84-minute runtime. The five principal characters are thinly drawn and easily summarized: they're all unsuccessful middle-aged men, with unstable or non-existent romantic lives, suffering from severe arrested development. The dialogue about gaming is funny enough, but every other attempt at humor falls flat. There're way too many cringe-worthy anti-homosexual jokes, and the prolonged bits about (1) a misunderstanding involving an African-American dwarf, a white hooded robe, and a cross burning, (2) swinger parents, (3) a psychotic CGI-parrot, (4) uncertain paternity, and (5) jerking off horses, all fall flat.
Folino sets Gamers up to be a mockumentary in the tradition of a Christopher Guest film, but he doesn't stay true to the limitations that entails. Unlike a traditional film where the director can show the audience anything the budget can stand, a mockumentary should be limited to material that could conceivably have been caught by a documentary film crew. Folino doesn't respect this limitation. He frequently presents scenes from the perspective of the cast members or from locations where no camera could be, thus ruining the illusion.
The transfer of the original 35mm 1.85:1 image is enhanced for widescreen, and looks surprising good with a clean, sharp image, and steady color levels throughout.
The 2.0 stereo audio is adequate with some notable separation between channels and no noticeable dropouts or distortion. There are no subtitle options on this release.
The extras are fairly well done, consisting of two audio commentaries, four deleted scenes, and seven cast interviews, and the theatrical trailer. The audio commentaries are both split between actors and crew. The first commentary includes filmmaker Christopher Folino, producer Jennifer Stechman, and actors Michael Bell, Dave Hanson, Ben Messmer and Kevin Sherwood. The second commentary has executive producers Roberto Blasini and Fernando Velloso, and actors Joe Nieves, Scott Rinker and Kevin Kirkpatrick.
I really wanted to like Gamers. This is a film that's essentially tailor-made for me. I was a geeky teen who played Dungeons & Dragons in junior high. I even traveled twice from Montgomery, Alabama to Madison, Wisconsin to attend Gencon, the then preeminent RPG convention. I'm also now 20 years out of high school, just like the main characters in Gamers. Additionally, I enjoyed the geeky bliss of Free Enterprise, Trekkies, and Spaced. So, all in all, I'm probably about as innately sympathetic to this film's subject matter as most any reviewer could be. Consequently, I'm disappointed to say that Gamers is at best a mixed lot that may be worth a look by past and present RPGers, but which can justly be ignored by everybody else.