Kind of like a grown-up The Wizard
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.
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.
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