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RUNNING TIME: 87 min.
– Cast interviews
– Deleted scenes
“It’s Spinal Tap meets Free Enterprise, for throwers of 20-sided dice!”
Kevin Kirkpatrick, Scott Allen Rinker, Kevin Sherwood, Joe Nieves, Dave Hanson, John Heard, Beverly D’Angelo
Four supremely dorky chums (and another recent recruit) are on the precipice of a great accomplishment: after 23 years and nearly 75,000 campaign hours together, they’re about to break the record for longest streak of regular sessions playing the pen-and-paper fantasy game DND (a.k.a., the infringement-avoiding "Demons Nymphs and Dragons"). A camera crew documents this dubious achievement and we gain access into the lives (or what occurs in the downtime between dungeons, anyway) of these dedicated gamers, including their dead-end jobs, highly questionable manners, and an unsettling attachment to a female elf character named Farrah.
"Ah yes, C.H.U.D., my finest work! Wait, what? There’s a website called that?"
It’s been a couple of decades since I’ve rolled up a cleric or consulted the Monster Manual, but the amusingly tragic characters and uncomfortable social situations in Gamers evoke memories from awkward and geeky high school years, which is quite certainly one of this mockumentary’s goals.
First-time writer-director Chris Folino has made a fairly fun and frank look at loserdom, with distinct characters ranging from restrained to clueless to outright odious, but all with a common link: an enduring refusal to leave the fantasy realm and fully join the normal. And as if to underscore the outdated nature of a gaming community that has long been eclipsed by technology (hey, the sales figures on Worlds of Warcraft don’t lie), Folino has wisely given the film an old-school tone, complete with hair-band soundtrack and a flashback to that fashion-disaster era known as the 80s, even incorporating a couple of cameos by icons from that decade (Greatest American Hero William Katt and Weird Science superhottie Kelly LeBrock).
Pepsi’s new "Let’s All Get Together" advertising campaign seems a bit… optimistic.
After introducing the players and peeking into their generally pathetic backgrounds and devotion to their hobby, the film meanders a bit and sometimes seems to forget it’s a “documentary”, but it’s got spunk (regular and horse). The wry and raunchy dialogue, deadpan delivery and casual interaction between the main cast members (mostly TV bit actors portraying frightfully believable nerds) make the film’s structural and budgetary shortcomings easier to overlook. John Heard and Beverly D’Angelo are especially droll as a libidinous couple who tolerate their son’s infatuation.
The humor is consistently obscene and absurd (if occasionally protracted or blatant, like a lengthy KKK gag), and while some references may be a bit esoteric for the non-RPG crowd, anyone who’s ever checked for traps or fired a magic missile should find plenty to enjoy… assuming the subject matter doesn’t hit (with a +3 Mallet of Reality) too close to home (where they likely live with their parents).
"Excuse me, we’re looking for an address — is this the 80s?"
The faux documentary is a new standard style for burgeoning filmmakers with little time and money, but for a movie shot in a few days for the cost of a high-end Mercedes, the presentation is very professional. There are a pair of audio commentaries combining various members of cast and crew, but the first with Folino is probably the most engaging, with lots of brutally honest anecdotes and cautions of making a low-budget flick. There are also a few deleted scenes on the disc, and brief interviews with the cast members.
7.5 out of 10