Big Air Studios // 2012 // 103 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Michael Rubino // February 13th, 2013
Regular guys, virtual heroes.
It'd be too easy to judge this direct-to-DVD release by its cover. It's adorned with a cast of rag-tag goofballs, standing in white limbo, aggressively selling the idea of Noobz: the comedy. Unlike some low budget releases, the cover isn't misleading; rather, it's more of an ominous warning. The filmmaker's heart may be in the right place, but the jokes aren't.
Noobz is like a low-stakes version of The Wizard, set in today's modern, ultra-violent, mainstream video game culture. A group of online gamers (a Gears of War clan called "Reign") unites to compete in the Cyberbowl Video Game Championship in Hollywood. There's Cody (Blake Freeman, the film's writer/director), the bitter team-leader who just lost his wife over video gaming; Andy (Jason Mewes, Clerks), his surprisingly level-headed friend; Oliver (Matt Shively), their sexually confused buddy; and "Hollywood" (Moises Arias, Hannah Montana), who is kept alive by an oxygen tank. Along the way, the four clan members run into real-life Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers), an overweight stripper, and an aging video game veteran parodying Billy Mitchell (Jon Gries, Napoleon Dynamite).
The best part of this movie is Jon Gries as the Billy Mitchell parody, Greg Lipstein. The character, living in a swank mansion built on Frogger money, decides to come out of retirement and reclaim his glory at Cyberbowl. Sure it's a direct parody of a very niche cultural icon (if you've seen King of Kong, you know everything there is to know about him), but Gries plays him with some sharp comedic timing and nuance. Strangely enough, it's this caricature that feels like the most realistic character in the film.
The main cast of heroes, which also includes Zelda Williams as the obligatory love interest, is neither interesting nor very funny. Why would you ever cast Jason Mewes as the straight man in a road movie? Why should I care about Cody's divorce when his wife is only in the movie for a single scene, and she's yelling at him the entire time? At least in The Wizard, there was someone chasing Fred Savage across the country, adding a bit of urgency to the whole thing.
Like any good comedy, the lack of depth in the story could easily be covered with laughs; Noobz is missing those as well. With the exception of the "ArmaGreggon" character, the film can't seem to land any of its intended jokes. It's a well-made indie film, with decent editing and camera work, but the writing frags it in the end.
Noobz is an average, straight-to-DVD release. The film has some good coloration and cinematography at times, but generally the transfer and the soundtrack are about average. If you feel so inclined, there are a few supplements -- like "One on One with Jason Mewes."
Films about video game culture are tough to pull off, especially if you're trying to reach a wide audience. Noobz is aiming to appeal strictly to gamers -- and particularly, people who play Gears of War, who come off as sponsors for the movie. It's not very good though, and especially not that funny. Some of the inside jokes about old-school gamers land, but the majority of the film is aggressively reaching.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Big Air Studios
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated R