For the uninitiated, The Angry Video Game Nerd started as a small independent Youtube series of surrealistic sketch comedy. Created by James Rolfe, the show became an internet sensation over the years amassing millions of subscribers and countless imitators. Rolfe’s foul-mouthed, hard-drinking online personality has turned him into a cult star, building a fan base interested in watching, but not necessarily playing, terrible 8-bit video games from the past. There’s a lot of rage, beer drinking, explosions, cursing, and toilet humor – but excessive profanity aside, just about every major online game review show today, owes a little something to AVGN. Rolfe might just be the world’s angriest, crudest retro-gamer but he’s also a man who’s built an empire in his basement, and truth be told, it isn’t his gimmick that has people going back for more – Rolfe actually provides insightful commentary and some of the best game reviews, even if screaming into a single camera. Over the years, his series became more elaborate and ambitious, incorporating skits, new characters and story lines, and now, a decade later, he has his own movie which sees him go up against Atari’s E.T., widely regarded as the worst video game ever made.
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie isn’t short on plot, covering the existence of alien life, and a massive government conspiracy — it turns out that the screen design of E.T. is actually a map of Area 51. Taking place in and around the Nevada desert near the real-life burial site of thousands of unused E.T. cartridges, the AVGN discovers that an evil corporation is about to release a sequel to E.T., (spelled Eee Tee here to avoid lawsuits). With the help of his friend Cooper (Jeremy Suarez), The Nerd must overcome his phobia of the worst game ever made and travel to Alamogordo New Mexico to prove that the infamous landfill story connected to the game is all but a myth. Helping out is Mandi (Sarah Glendening), an employee of the game company responsible for Eee Tee 2, sent on a mission to persuade The Nerd into reviewing the game to help boost sales. Also, on the hunt is General Dark Onward (Stephen Mendel), a crazed military leader who believes they are a threat to national security, and demands their capture.
The movie if anything, is a valentine to Rolfe’s creation and his loyal viewers world-wide, celebrating the worst in gaming culture. And as much as it’s about games, Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie is also about movies – a road trip comedy in the vein of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure – that takes many of the medium’s most common clichés and lovingly recreates or subverts them. Viewers are treated to cameos from other popular online and cult personalities, subtle homages to classic sci-fi and action films, and even a few well-timed pop culture references. Rolfe works within the confines of the low budget providing a mix of practical and computer generated effects: miniature buildings, puppetry, rubber suits, green screen; it’s all here. The film as a whole doesn’t really take itself too seriously, and purposely injects campy action – noticeably bad special effects – dodgy sets – stagnant editing – bad dialogue and terrible acting. However, the elements that work for the short form web series, don’t adapt well to the new medium, and worse, the film just isn’t funny – not one joke lands and often, AVGNTM is offensive, as many of the film’s jokes play on crass gender stereotypes. The biggest problem, however, is that the self-adoration is laid on so thick – when it is all said and done, Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie can be viewed as a 115 minute long advertisement for his ongoing Youtube channel – after all, it opens with a flood of praise from videos created by worldwide fans showing their glowing support. Not surprisingly, the best part of the film comes right at the end, when Rolfe finally delivers his long-awaited review of E.T. At the heart of his web-series is his well-opinionated commentary of video games, and even if I’m not a fan of his shtick, I do enjoy his critical banter. Take away his insightful reviews, however, and you’re left with something so incompetent and ridiculous that it will be championed only by those desperately looking for the next cult film to worship.
- Ricky D