In 10 Words or Less
Kind of like a grown-up The Wizard
Loves: Video Games
Likes: Jason Mewes, Jon Gries
Dislikes: Stereotypical gamers
Hates: Single-serving DVDs
The core audience for Noobz (which, if you didn't know, is gamer insult for newcomers or beginners) is most certainly evident in the intersection of a Venn diagram featuring Kevin Smith fans and video-game players, which is likely one of the largest overlaps you're likely to find in such illustrations. Making a movie about a quartet of road-tripping gamers seeking to compete in one of the world's largest tournaments and having one of them played by Jason Mewes, Jay to Smith's Silent Bob, may not result in the largest audience, but it will certainly be a loyal one. Now, if they could make a good movie on top of that, they'd really be in business. Well...how does that Meatloaf song go again?
Cody (writer/director Blake Freeman) just lost his job as a real estate agent and his sexy girlfriend, but he has the only thing that matters: his Gears of War clan, Reign. His focus in life, aside from his blinding rage, is playing video games online with his X-Box pals. His newly clear agenda comes at a good time, as his team's about to take part in the Cyber Bowl, a Gears of War 3 tournament in Hollywood, with $400,000 on the line. Gathering his crew, including game-store clerk Andy (Jason Mewes), sexually-confused Oliver (Matt Shively) and Casper Van Diem...'s girlfriend's asthmatic son Clarence (Moises Arias), he heads off for a shot at glory (along with all the problems along the way.)
At the same time, a once-revered video-game legend, Billy Mitchell-stand-in Greg "Armgreggon" Lipstein (Jon Gries), is headed to the Cyber Bowl as well, for his own attempt at victory, trying to earn the Frogger championship that's long eluded him. Naturally, his path crosses with Reign's, leading to the big championship match-up. The actual big battle is a bit of a let-down, as it takes place in a few brief onscreen scraps (likely for the best, since watching video-game play can be deathly boring.) But the movie is more about the journey than the destination, as Andy connects with former teammate GirlGuns (Zelda Williams) and Clarence searches for the father he's never known. Oddly though, Cody, the star of the show, and Oliver don't really have story arcs to travel, which leaves the whole thing feeling a touch empty plot-wise, especially when the climax is so nonsensical.
The biggest issue though is the pacing, as the movie gets caught up in moments that last far too long, like when Cody gets in an argument with a young girl over a cup of coffee or when Armagreggon performs a long, bizarre monologue into a mirror. At several points, the film just hangs as scenes wind their way to completion. However, when the film traffics in the absurd or just silly, as with most of Armagreggon's scenes, or Van Diem's self-deprecating cameo and his older significant other, things actually go pretty well (though the relatively rampant gay jokes weren't really necessary (nor did they really make sense) even if they weren't the most homophobic gags I've heard.) There are some funny jokes in the overly-witty script and the cast acquits itself well, including the unexpected cameos by Bill Bellamy and Jason Hervey, though everything is played a bit over-the-top. No one's going to come in with any real expectations for this movie, and as such, disappointment is unlikely, even for gamers traditionally let down by their portrayal in films. It's just a goofy little comedy that's while away a too-long 100 minutes.
On a side note: the girl on the cover as part of the team (and seemingly on the back of the box in a more enticing close-up) is barely in the movie, and is certainly never going to be carrying a nerf rifle. It's just a disingenuous draw for horndogs, and doesn't make much sense, since there's a very attractive female gamer in the film who would fit in with the picture. Guess we can blame market research for that one.
Inside a standard keepcase, you get a one-disc release, with a static anamorphic widescreen menu offering options to play the film, choose chapters and check out the extras.There are no audio options, nor are there subtitles, though closed captioning is included.
Shot on video, the anamorphic widescreen image is pretty nice, featuring solid color and skintone reproduction and a good amount of fine detail (check out Armagreggon's silky hair,) though that clarity does tend to reveal the film's low-budget production values. There are no issues with compression artifacts, making for an overall impressive presentation for this indie flick.
Delivered via a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, the audio for this film is simple but free of any distortion. Pretty much all of the focal sound, like the dialogue and key sound effects arrive up front, though the surrounds feature some nice off-screen voices and some enhancement on the soundtrack. There was no notable dynamic mixing though.
The big bonus on this disc is an audio commentary with Freeman and Mewes. I'd probably have a better opinion of the film if I hadn't listened to this track, which gave Freeman the opportunity to both profess his love for his "Deeznühtz" joke and helpfully point out the origin if the line "it's good to be the king," as if it was an obscure Dennis Miller reference. There's also the matter of Freeman noting any ad-libbed lines, which were normally the funniest lines in the movie. On the plus side, there's a good deal of behind-the-scenes info (explaining, to a degree, why an Rrated film with a scene in a strip club features no nudity) and notes about the value of product placement. Toward the end, they bought get caught up in watching the movie, and the pace falls off.
A set of four featurettes is also included, starting with "One on One with Jason Mewes," which spends just 59 seconds with the film's most marketable star, and he manages one major error in that brief time. While mentioning his favorite scenes, he refers to the store he works at in the film as a GameStop, when they make explicitly clear that it's a Play N Trade. Oops. The switch is probably the most interesting thing he says though. "Meet Director Blake Freeman" is barely any longer, at 1:13, as the writer/director/star talks about doing right by gamers in portraying their world on screen.
"A Chat with Casper Van Dien" continues the brevity trend, with another 59-second interview. He pokes a bit of fun a himself and his acting ability, so he comes off pretty well in the end. The short featurettes wrap up with the 1:28 "Fun with Matt Shively," as the actor discusses his sexually-ambivalent character, but like the other clips, you're not learning a whole lot.
The Bottom Line
Though certainly not a good movie, Noobz is inoffensive; the kind of movie that litters cable TV, drawing you in for a few hours while you veg on the couch. It certainly has more appeal for gamers, but it offers enough silliness to fit in neatly with the low-budget comedies that were so popular in the '80s, just without the T&A that marked those efforts and made them must-watch late-night viewing on HBO. The DVD looks and sounds fine, and offers a few extras, but it doesn't require more than a rental for most people.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.