Sunday, February 23, 2014

Movie Review: Knights of Badassdom

Welcome Back, Apprentices! I'm going to be honest with you right out of the gate, guys…this is not a "good" movie. You will not finish this movie having your mind blown by its awesomeness but, if you can appreciate the cheesiness, you will walk away with a satisfied chuckle. Unlike other films I deemed not-very-good and raged over the two hours of my life I will never get back, I don't regret spending time with this goofy little gem.

Knights of Badassdom is about a group of LARPers whom, while out for a weekend battle, accidentally summon a succubus demon from Hell with a book of spells purchased from "the internets."  It is up to the LARPers to destroy the demon and save mankind…or, at least save the other LARPers from being slaughtered like sheep with only their foam swords to protect them. The cast is truly stellar with Ryan Kwanten (True Blood), Steve Zahn (Reality Bites, Treme), Summer Glau (Firefly, Serenity), Danny Pudi (Community) and with Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) pulling double duty acting and as the executive producer.

The writing is not fabulous…there are some truly cringe-worthy moments centering mostly around Kwanten's character, Joe, the slacker lead singer of a Doom Metal band who gets dumped by his high school sweetheart. So, just let me warn you now, you will fight the urge to turn the movie off and walk away whenever Joe starts to sing. It happens twice…so just hang in there!

The characters are pretty underdeveloped and read like the first episode of an internet web series. In fact, this film probably would have been an awesome web series if the script was broken up and fleshed out a little more. But as a film, it falls flat in some areas. Right now you're probably wondering why I even liked it and I honestly don't have a solid answer for you except to say that the cast kept me engaged. Peter Dinklage was, as always, a joy to watch. As a mushroom-eating knight wielding a +3 mace made by his mother (and yes, I spent far too long wondering how his mother constructed the mace), Dinklage manages to steal almost every scene. The man can do comedy and drama like nobody's business and we, as a society, are better for having him entertain us. Steve Zahn is hilarious as an "accidental millionaire" hiding from reality as a level 27 Wizard. He is so oblivious to reality and consumed with his imaginary world that he, ironically, can't face the fact that he actually summoned a demon. Ryan Kwanten and Summer Glau have their moments. In one particular "fight" scene, I had a faint glimmer of River Tam's epic battle in Serenity when she took on a roomful of Reavers on her own. But in this film, the lack of stunt choreography only served as a reminder that the memory was all in my head. Glau's physicality was underused and the scene poorly shot in what could have been a fantastic film highlight. But remember, these are LARPers, not actual "big damn heroes."

The real stand-out performance for me was Jimmy Simpson who plays Ronny, the Gamemaster. He is introduced as the foil, the long-time rival of Joe going back to their days together playing Dungeons & Dragons. Upon first impression, you think you are just going to hate this guy…he's the master of his LARPing domain (likely the only domain he has ever and will ever master) with his minions trailing after him as he barks orders in hilariously butchered Olde English. But every moment with him onscreen is pure gold. He plays the part with the perfect balance of conceit and comedy. Had he tipped the scales too far in either direction, the character would have been ruined and I'm fairly certain the character WOULD have been ruined in the hands of any other actor. Simpson found the charm of the character as deeply invested in the game and truly appreciating the imagination and creativity behind it. Ronny's sincerity gives him a lovable quality that, again, could have been buried in smarminess had another actor been in the role.

Clearly filmed on a budget, this movie contains precious little CG. And I think we're all better off for it because…honestly, it's not very well-done. Most of the gore happens offscreen with copious amounts of fake blood being thrown around (a la the original Evil Dead) and a final "boss fight" with a wonderfully terrible, floppy latex monster rampaging through the LARP battlefield. I won't ruin the sheer, campy awesomeness of the monster by posting a picture here. I want you to experience it yourselves.

I've read other reviews of this film that speak of genuine disappointment that something so wonderfully nerd-centric went so wrong. But I think you can appreciate movies for different reasons. This movie kept me entertained and that's what matters. Besides, how could I NOT watch it as a huge fan of Firefly, True Blood, Game of Thrones and Community? Overall, I enjoyed Knights of Badassdom and I'll likely watch it again with friends, food and many, many cocktails.


+ 10 Awesome Cast
+ 5 Wonderfully Cheesy F/X
+1 Just For Trying
-2 Terrible "Doom" Music & Awkward Singing
-7 Character Development/Writing

Stay tuned! Tomorrow I'll be posting my recipe for delicious buttermilk cinnamon rolls! Be sure to like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter for the latest 8-Bit Cook news!

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