originally reviewed the independent comedy Gamers back in
the summer of 2006. At the time, it was being completely
self-distributed, and after the review appeared, writer/director
Chris Folino and I became friends, to the point of Chris
bringing me onboard Catastrophic Comics as editor and Chief
Zorlac. I say all that as full disclosure, but I did not
know Chris when I wrote about this film.
why repost this now? Because his little Cinderella story
has a happy ending -- with Gamers picked up for distribution
by Monterey Media, and it will be released in stores on
Tuesday, May 6, 2008. It's still funny; it's still a little
bit wrong; it's still absolutely worth your time.
about the use of Loverboy's "Working for the Weekend" over
a fantasy campaign map sets exactly the right tone for Gamers.
Mike Reno's passionate vocals match the intensity with which
these guys roll their twenty-sided dice. The five intrepid
menchildren who are the focus of the film all believe themselves
far cooler than they actually are.
Sure, that set up sounds a bit cliché,
but Gamers has something better than self-awareness
to set itself apart. It has a good script, genuinely talented
actors and a willingness to go just about anywhere for a
laugh. Oh, and yeah, it gets those laughs.
Set up as a mockumentary, though that conceit
phases in and out, the film covers a group of friends that
have been playing Demons, Nymphs and Dragons (DND)
for twenty-three years. Five more hours and they will set
the record for the longest running game, beating out a group
of corn farmers that role play after the chores are done.
On the eve of their victory, of course,
things start to fracture. But writer/director Christopher
Folino is far more interested in the lives (or non-lives,
as the case may be) these guys have created for themselves.
The film spends time with each of the players, establishing
all their delusions.
The most poignant might be Gordon (Kevin
Kirkpatrick), whose biography matches up with Folino's early
professional life. Working in public access television,
Gordon thinks he just might have it in him to become a filmmaker.
Unlike Folino, however, Gordon is also pretty socially inept,
ruined by years of gaming and the harsh ribbing that only
longtime friends can provide.
Kirkpatrick plays the character with a
dawning sense of his own inadequacy. In every interview,
you can see the arc as Gordon starts realizing that what
he's saying makes no sense and tries to cover for it. He's
the first to figure out that maybe they need to move away
from their parents' homes, though Gordon considers his own
living situation temporary, "…until (his) parents die."
Despite all the characters have in common,
Folino and his actors make them all very distinct. Paul
(Scott Allan Rinker), the manipulative ringleader, lives
for DND, but can pass for normal in a way that Reese (Dave
Proving that pecking orders exist no matter
where you are on the scale, Reese is, in fact, the most
loathed of the group by the rest of the group. Hanson improvised
a lot on the set, and some of his rantings pay off big time,
even on the DVD menu. The character has a strange predilection
for naming his elfling warrior women after 70's TV icons,
and his mourning for Farrah runs right past pathetic and
course, Farrah met her untimely end at the hands of the
arrogant Dungeon Lord Kevin (Kevin Sherwood). He keeps his
life secret from the rest (or so he thinks), and his cluelessness
defies belief. (Listen
to a sample of his job.) Yet therein lies the strength
of the film's comedy - it's fearless, fearless stuff.
Even in its outrageousness, it also flows
naturally from the set-up, just taking it to a conclusion
too far for conservative tastes. Starting with Gordon holding
a public wake for his first elf character and including
a musical version of The Passion of the Christ, the
movie has moments that gleefully offend, especially when
it focuses on the "lost" player - a guy that really
of the actors fall in the "hey, I've seen that guy" category,
as they've floated around in walk-on parts on sitcoms and
dramas over the last few years. But Folino also got a few
recognizable names to show up and steal a scene or two.
As Gordon's parents, John Heard and Beverly D'angelo strike
a chord. Many
of our parents have likely had this conversation.
icons William Katt and Kelly LeBrock also pop up, and Folino
uses them for more than shock value. Katt especially has
a great monologue as Reese's boss, encouraging him to find
"…a game where you can't die!"
It's not a perfect film, necessarily. The
plot does meander, though most of its digressions do weave
back around for pay-offs. As often happens with movies this
low-budget, the editing feels just slightly off, though
not enough to blow any jokes.
for a low-budget film, Gamers has spark, heart and
originality. That includes the game these guys play; Folino
had the rights to Dungeons and Dragons up until the eleventh
hour; going with a non-existent game actually lifts the
movie into a clever place it might not have been otherwise.
recommending it because it made me laugh hard, and it will
make you laugh hard, too. If you're lucky, you're not one
of the guys featured in this movie, and if you are, well,
Watch the trailer
Gamers on Amazon!