I should start with praise for James Rolfe and the AVGN web-series, because a lot is deserved. He's a bright spot in the sea of internet hosts - a unique and effortlessly charming comedian with genuine and endearing passion for what he does. Watching his film reviews is like listening to the wisest of old friends. Watching 'AVGN' really is like being taken back to the past. At its best, the show's nostalgia, wit and self-conscious tongue-in-cheek silliness work brilliantly.
But it gives me no pleasure at all to say - this is Rolfe at his worst. It would be unfair to complain that the film detracts from the nature of the show - this production was clearly meant to take the sketch character into a different medium and construct a story for him. That's a worthy goal and suggests a genuine intention to expand. But sadly, judging the film on its own merits, there is a lot to criticize. I hesitate to make a list, but there's a lot.
New characters for 'the Nerd' to interact with are a fine idea, but these are underwritten, flat, extremely generic and almost all poorly-played. The second character could essentially be cut from the script here without any effect. He's a sidekick for the sake of having one, with no purpose, appeal or character traits of his own (compare Cooper to Garth in Wayne's World).
An epic plot and action scenes could have worked here, despite the budget, if they were made carefully. Sadly, the effects seem more and more rushed as the film goes on. It's a noble goal to fill an independent movie with model shots and puppets.... but not using toy vehicles and a puppet with no mouth articulation. The third act is composed mostly of these.
This is a film that tries to do a lot, but seems to put little effort into any element and so we're left with a mismatched, sort-of demo reel of what the writer directors would like to accomplish: character comedy, surrealism, romance, ensemble work, effects, a zombie sequence which seems especially tacked-on, creature effects, spoof, fight scenes, road movie elements -- but all of them sub-par and thrown into one pot. The film seems 'out of control'. Watching the puppet scenes, hearing the bad dubbing on its static lips, it's very difficult to consider this a 'movie' in a real sense.
It feels rushed throughout - especially in the script, oddly enough considering how much time was available before filming. The movie features very, very old jokes - many that I remember already hearing in other films (at one point the old 'psed off is better than psed on' gag is rolled out). The characters are clichéd (a running joke focuses on an overbearing mother phoning her son and clucking orders at him - at the risk of sounding cruel-- get out of bed, Joooohn, get out of bed!).
Occasionally the movie will break the fourth wall to comment on its reliance of cliché (for example the lengthy 'girl fight' between two attractive actresses with no real purpose), but pointing out a bad (slightly misogynist?) story-thread hardly justifies boring us with it for so long in the first place. As well, the movie opens with a significant portion of recycled jokes from the show - this might be regarded as a fun 'shout out' or self-indulgent reference for the fans, but that seems like a stretch. Surely those fans would have preferred fresh material?
There is also a certain element of self-congratulation in the film which becomes sickly very quickly, and never lets up. To open the film with a barrage of triumphant 'favourite lines' and far, far too many clips of real-life fans praising him as though he were the messiah immediately seems deeply unprofessional and self-promoting. This never stops - the adoring crowds are present in many scenes - and never seems ironic. James just spends a lot of time in the film receiving compliments for the show. Cameos abound, long after their novelty has worn off and rarely with any direction or clever use of the faces - Lloyd Kaufman mugs into a static camera in his living room for some time. Nothing is reigned-in.
Of course a director's first film often falls flat. Not everyone is lucky enough to open with 'Duel' or 'Clerks' - but this feels like an unusually flawed first attempt. It's overlong, badly-paced, crammed with shoddy and lazy effects, and succeeds with only one of its large cast of characters - the Nerd himself, an appropriately- weary protagonist here, although even he is flawed, saddled as he is with a confused and convoluted arc (I found it very difficult to tell what his motivations were at most points) and given little time to shine. He is far too often the straight man in his own movie.
As a fan of Rolfe's I hope he learns from this step rather than just enjoying the trappings of having released a film and played in theaters. At times 'Angry Video Game Nerd the Movie' veers on being a vanity project. A glance at almost any video on his website will demonstrate that he has a LOT more to give. This is a comedian and film-maker with exceptional talent, a deep love of his craft and exceptional on-screen charisma.
He deserves a real movie. Some of us have been waiting for him to realize his great ambition and make one for a decade now.
Review by chrisnbuchanan from the Internet Movie Database.