The Angry Video Game Nerd has been roasting retro video games online for a decade now. If you’ve never heard of him (and have any
interest in games), his videos come highly recommended. They represent a great blend of criticism, nostalgia and irreverently foul humor.
Constructing a feature film around The Nerd character may seem like a dreadful idea (Remember how most of those SNL movies turned
out?), but the results are actually not as abysmal as the film’s embarrassing trailers hinted at.
James Rolfe, who created and stars as The Nerd, co-writes and directs the film along with Kevin Finn. Both are newcomers to feature films,
and it shows in almost every department.
This is an ultra-low budget picture with unconvincing visual effects, rough sound design and a screenplay in desperate need of a focused
From a certain perspective, one can admire it as B-movie charm, with its cheesy practical effects and silly action sequences, but the film’s
biggest issue is really its conception. This screenplay is far too ambitious for a fan-funded project helmed by inexperienced filmmakers.
Even worse, the film can’t even match the series in humor, with too many jokes rehashed from the show’s past.
This is a film that can be appreciated as a great effort by those involved, but far from the good movie the character (and his fans) deserved.
Despite the series consisting mostly of game reviews from the NES library, ‘Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie’ focuses on E.T. for the Atari
2600. Perhaps the most infamous game of all time, E.T. was such a critical and commercial flop that Atari was notoriously rumored to have
buried millions of unsold copies in the New Mexico desert.
Constantly harassed by his fans to review the game, The Nerd sets out to disprove the rumors by excavating the supposed site of the
cartridge dump, thus ending the gaming community’s bizarre obsession.
In order to fund the dig, The Nerd’s “manager” Cooper (Jeremy Suarez) enlists the help of Cockburn Games’ Mandi (Sarah Glendening),
whose employer is set to release a sequel that promises to be even worse than the original.
Up until this point, the film is a fairly standard goofy comedy with the charm of its main character intact, but soon after reaching their
destination, the story flies off the rails with a series of bizarre twists, including the U.S. Military’s involvement in the incident and the game's
connection to the Roswell UFO conspiracy and Area 51.
These sequences are very hit or miss, as Rolfe and Finn go for broke by throwing every wacky idea in their heads against the film and
hoping some of them stick. Those involving the military (Including a super hammy performance by Stephen Mendel as the obnoxious
General) are largely tiresome, while the conspiracy subplot with Time Winters as Dr. Louis Zandor fares quite a bit better. One of the film’s
best sequences finds our protagonists huddled in a refrigerator (The only place the Government hasn’t bugged) as Zandor brings the
various threads together via flashbacks.
“Oh, for the love of Pong! One hoax at a time,” The Nerd exclaims.
It’s this self-awareness that actually provides the funniest moments in the film, with amusing nods to the production’s limited budget and a
great quip about only saying a senseless line for the movie’s trailer.
At least the filmmakers knew to not take themselves too seriously.
The supporting cast is generally okay, but not especially notable. It doesn’t help that the final act struggles to provide them with meaningful
Luckily Rolfe is as good as ever as The Nerd. Of all his achievements, I don’t think he gets nearly enough credit for his acting skills. This is a
role he’s been playing for over ten years, and if there’s one constant throughout the film, it’s the quality of his performance.
That and Bear McCreary’s score, that is. McCreary is currently TV’s most prolific composer, with a ridiculous eight series currently in
production by my unofficial count. McCreary is an AVGN fan, having previously scored one of the Christmas Specials. He even has a cameo
in the film as a zombie (He’s the one with long hair and a goatee). His score is a considerable boon to the film, especially as the plot reaches
new levels of ridiculousness in its final act. His epic arrangement of the series’ main theme during the film’s finale is genuinely awesome.
This score is invaluable in providing at least some aural polish to the otherwise unrefined whole.
Despite all the film’s flaws, it ends on a rather high note with a great closing tribute to everything the show stands for, and yes, finally, The
Nerd’s review of E.T.
The film is too long and it’s a wildly inconsistent ride, but it’s also enthusiastic, energetic and sporadically quite funny. It does have a
certain charm that AVGN fans may appreciate, even if we’ve seen far better from Rolfe before. There is enough enjoyment to be had for the
initiated, but anyone else need not bother.
It’s fitting that his film turns out to be an accurate metaphor for the wretched games he loves to hate.
If I could channel The Nerd for a moment, I would say AVGN: The Movie may be a piece of shit, but it’s not a whole shit. I think he said it best
when looking back at his memories of Top Gun on NES, “It’s a piece of shit I might have some affection for.”
(out of four)
|ANGRY VIDEO GAME
NERD: THE MOVIE
Directed by: Kevin Finn & James Rolfe
Written by: Kevin Finn & James Rolfe
Starring: James Rolfe, Sarah Glendening, Jeremy
Suarez, Stephen Mendel, Helena Barrett, Time Winters
Cinematography by: Jason Brewer
Music by: Bear McCreary
Released: July 21, 2014; 115 Minutes