In 2004, a young gamer named James Rolfe recorded a couple of videos that would give birth to the gigantic Internet phenomenon that involved an exceptionally angry, foul-mouthed video game nerd reviewing old video games of inferior quality. In 2014, a full 10 years after Rolfe unknowlingly gave us one of the most beloved Internet characters ever, the Angry Video Game Nerd finally got his own movie; a movie that celebrates, not only the Nerd, video games and classic filmmaking, but the very concept of being a fan and what it means to us all. Though not great, it’s most surely a charmful little piece of indie moviemaking.
We join the Nerd in an age where most people know who he is and most people have seen his game reviewing show on YouTube. A company called Cockburn Inc. – classy as ever – are making a sequel to the infamously bad E.T. Atari game from 1982; the one so horrible that it is said that the cartridges were buried in a landfill in the Nevada desert somewhere. The people at Cockburn theorize that they can use the Nerd and his reviews to popularize their new game, primarily amongst his fans, who have, of course, been dying to watch his review of the E.T. game that started it all.
However, as many of you no doubt know already, E.T. is the one game that the Nerd hates so much that he simply refuses to do a review of it. Believing that his fans will finally forget about it if he goes to the landfill and proves that there’s nothing under there, he travels there with his black best friend Cooper (Jeremy Suarez) and a nutty geek lady named Maddie (Sarah Glendening) to find out the truth, but he’s met with more obstacles and enemies than he would have anticipated. Not only does he become a target of an ever gruff, legless general (Stephen Mendel) who wants the land untouched, but he also uncovers dark secrets about the game’s true nature and its connection with real extraterrestrials and even Area 51 itself. Adventure ensues.
On top of having a colorful batch of characters, there’s also a handful of charming cameos given to the likes of filmmaker Lloyd Kaufman, Nostalgia Critic star Doug Walker (inevitably), YouTube comedian Nathan Barnatt and even Howard Scott Warshaw, the man who programmed the original E.T. game in 1982. Not too shabby, Rolfe.
Of course the film is also ripe with references to the classics that made James Rolfe the film-/game-loving man he is today: Indiana Jones, Back To The Future, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly and, later on, the Godzilla films. You can probably guess what happens.
Some of the effects, on that note, are as about cheesy as the ones you might see in a Godzilla film that Rolfe watched as a kid, but the obvious fakeness is part of the charm. Some of it looks funny, in the same class as Kung-Pow, and the rest simply gives a fun glimpse into the production, where you can guess what techniques were used to achieve the shot in question.
As for characters, I would have liked to see more of the more “classic” Angry Video Game Nerd stars like Mike Matei and Kyle Justin, but I did enjoy the film’s original characters a great deal. Mandi was ridiculously adorkable and funny to boot (it doesn’t help that she’s a dead ringer for one of my most devastating celebrity crushes, Ellie Kemper), Cooper made me think of Troy from Community, and the gruff army man stereotype is executed in a pretty funny manner here. I also enjoyed the references to classic Nerd episodes, Bear McReary’s original score, and the parallels between the plot of the film itself and that of the E.T. game, what little that game actually had. Also, the film is dedicated to the memory of Justin Carmical. That made me smile, albeit sadly.
The Angry Video Game Nerd Movie is not a masterpiece by the most common definition. But it is a hard film not to appreciate because of how it celebrates nostalgia and nerdiness, as well as being a film that James Rolfe is responsible for himself and not some depressing rehash of that disaster Fred: The Movie, a case where some Hollywood nitwits simply grabbed an unfunny YouTuber and made money off of him with their movie. No dear reader, this here is a film with genuine love behind it, and true love in that form is admirable.
I recommend this film for fans of filmmaking, fans of video games from all ages, and especially fans of the Nerd. You may want to get the BluRay, which contains great behind-the-scenes material and even a Nostalgia Critic review OF the movie itself. What a time to be a fan of Internet reviewers, eh?