Judge David Johnson is a level-36 mage. His wife can barely keep her hands off of him.
The sacrifice. The obsession. The blind dedication.
A subject worthy of comic harpooning receives the faux-documentary treatment—to mixed results.
Facts of the Case
Five friends are on the verge of breaking the all-time record for most hours dedicated to playing the popular fantasy roleplaying game "Demons, Nymphs and Dragons." Since high school, these gamers have poured over 72,000 hours of their lives into rolling 20-sided dice and maxing out their characters' hit points.
As the much-anticipated hour draws forth when the fellas will earn their places in the annals of pen-and-paper RPG lore, they will each meet with their own impasses that may sabotage their chances for immortality.
Gamers comes so close to being a stand-out comedy, but ultimately falls short. Which is a D-20 shame because this is some fertile comic ground to till.
Now I'm not going to say that all RPG devotees are nerds or anything (hey, I was a fan back in the days of middle school) but…well, a good amount of them are, and that's fine. The characters in Gamers play to those geek stereotypes, with all five of the guys absolute geeks. The nerd characteristics are all accounted for: everyone lives with their parents, are completely useless around the opposite sex, hold down meaningless jobs and have a tendency to wear costumes. This element of the film works the best. The actors are each funny and embrace the geekdom of their roles with verve. As the film draws closer to the finale, when their collective dreams of breaking the record, the (light) drama increases a bit, and the performances reflect this with touching moments, particularly when one of the guys misleads the groups about their impending fame. This is entertaining, honest work.
Unfortunately, the writing isn't sharp enough to do justice to either the performances or the material it's inspired by. Writer/director Christopher Folino has a few good ideas, but the laughs that do make the cut often burn through their good will when the scenes go on way too long. That's the trap with the fake, single-camera documentary approach that's employed here. Gamers proceeds along the lines of Spinal Tap and Best in Show, featuring interviews with the characters and flashback segments. I tend to dig this game-plan for comedies, but there's a fine line to walk with the comic timing. Those flashback skits have to be tight and joke-filled, and the ones in Gamers tend to go on too long.
Way too long.
For example, one of the guys talks about his job shooting video for the local public access channel and lauds his shooting style, a shaky, zoom-in/zoom-out wannabe hip tactic. So of course we cut to an example of this, and it's pretty funny, as a government official drones on and the camera-work is all over the place but Folino doesn't know when to quit and the sequence continues…and the laughter subsides. This type of pacing misstep is characteristic of the film's sketch sequences—a major component of the feature—and it hurts the overall effectiveness of the comedy.
So, overall, I'd say Gamers is a missed opportunity; coming close to earning a thumbs up, but just missing.
The DVD is decent. The anamorphic widescreen transfer (1.85:1) and 2.0 stereo are both clean. The extras: cast interviews, two commentary tracks, a handful of deleted scenes and some DVD-ROM content.
Gamers has a nice heart and the acting and the subject matter is prime, but in the laugh department, the film is left wanting.
You rolled double-zeroes. The dragon eats your face.
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