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 Knights of Badassdom

Knights of Badassdom

What She said:

She

Prior to watching this film, I had never heard of Knights of Badassdom, but I kept seeing the movie poster show up on Amazon and it looked intriguing—kind of like an 80s fantasy movie.  The He and I decided to give the film a shot, figuring there was nothing much better out there to check out on a boring Saturday night, and I have to say, I was amused by the film.  Is it a B-movie at its core?  Most definitely.  The production value on this movie falls below “Lifetime movie” and even “daytime soap opera,” and hovers just above “high school TV production skit.”  But I assure you, that's very intentional, a tactic used to make the movie feel campy.  And campy it does feel.  However, the film is a wolf in sheep's clothing.  While it feels very low-budget, we're dealing with a fairly A-list cast, and so this is still a Hollywood movie.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, let me back up and tell you a little bit about the plot of Knights of Badassdom.  As the title in no way implies, this movie is about LARPers.  What is a LARPer, you may ask?  They are Live Action Role Players aka grown adults who dress up like fantasy characters (i.e., knights, fairies, wizards, earls, wenches, etc.) and act out battles, storylines, and organized games.  More specifically, it's about a bunch of late 30-something roommates who attend a LARPing weekend, umm, competition (?) and find themselves caught up in some very real and very mystic drama, with their lives at stake.

Eric (Steve Zahn) and Hung (Peter Dinklage) are obsessive fans of the genre.  They have the costumes and even craft their own authentic battle weapons.  Eric, who is aiming to improve his wizard rating, carries around a special spell book that he bought online.  They drag roommate and friend Joe (Ryan Kwanten) along to the special LARPing outing, hoping that the time away from home will help him to move past the longtime girlfriend who recently dumped him.  But by some stroke of fate, it seems that Joe is truly unable to escape Beth, as an evil spirit uses her likeness to return to Earth and cause havoc.  Of course, this is all only possible because it turns out that Eric's spell book is actually real, and he's unleashed an ancient curse.  Many lives are at stake as Beth aka Succubus starts picking off LARPers one-by-one, and it's up to Eric, Hung, Joe, and their friends, including the beautiful Gwen (Summer Glau) to stop the demon.  Do they have the brains and the brawn to do it in time?

 Knights of Badassdom

The special effects in this movie are terrible.  I mean, pretty much as bad as they get.  There is a final sequence of the film where the demon takes on the form of a reptilian monster, and it's basically a guy in a bad rubber costume stomping around.  That last portion of the film truly does play out like a long Gwar music video. 

Adding to the abysmal special effects is a storyline that is as simplistic as possible.  Don't try to read too deeply into this film, because you're probably not going to find too much.  No character is particularly deep, and none of them really grow too much.  This simply is not that kind of movie.

What we do have with Knights of Badassdom is a film that's just trying to have some fun. It's a parody of monster movies, and is a light comedy with a decent gore factor.  And all of our star actors in this movie really put in top notch performances.  No, they're not testing the boundaries of their acting chops—no Oscars here—but they do manage to be quite funny.  It's amusing to see Peter Dinklange in a quiet drama like The Station Agent and then turn around and encounter him a couple months later in this film.  One particularly entertaining character in this movie was Ronnie the Gamemaster, played by Jimmi Simpson.  Simpson channels the role perfectly—a super nerd who is so obsessed with the game that he's orchestrated his life around it.

Some may find the low production value on this film to be too much to handle, but it's important to remember that this was all done in jest.  Knights of Badassdom is a parody of itself and of the genre in general, and so it's actually quite tongue-in-cheek.  It's goofy, pretty stupid, and very simple, but also a decent amount of fun if you're willing to really loosen up.  Kick back a few brewskies and let yourself enjoy the film for what it is.  Just don't expect to be blown away.

Thumbs up.

 Knights of Badassdom

What He said:

He

Joe, Eric, and Hung (yes that’s his name, I looked it up to confirm it) are best buds. They live together in a house that resembles a castle. It resembles a castle because Eric (Steve Zahn) and Hung (Peter Dinlage) are huge fans of role-playing games. In fact, they are LARPers. You know, the people who dress up and instead of playing a board game, they act it out themselves? I forget whether it is Eric or Hung’s house, and that’s not really important, but it is important that LARPing is their life, which is why the house is modeled after something out of medieval times. Joe (Ryan Kwanten) doesn’t LARP, but he used to play Dungeons and Dragons with them when they were younger. He’s since grown into the “cool” guy of the group.

 Knights of Badassdom

Joe is a mechanic at a car dealership. He’s dating a girl named Beth (Margarita Levieva) who works up on the showroom floor. One day she comes down to the garage to visit him and breaks up with him. Joe is devastated. He feels like his heart has been ripped it. So when he gets off from work, he goes him and starts drinking and jamming on his guitar. He’s a big fan of metal, so when Eric and Hung see that he’s playing a power ballad, they know something’s up. They do what any good pothead friend would do and get him high out of his mind. He then passes out.
When he awakens, something isn’t quite right. He’s wearing ….armor? It turns out that Eric and Hung decided to bring Joe along to their latest LARP game. Joe is not too happy. He’s tool cool for this geeky stuff. They refuse to give up though. They hide the keys to the car and encourage him to just relax and have some fun. After some reluctance – and a glance at this gal – he decides to stick it out.

Since he’s a newbie, he has to seek approval from the “game master” before he is permitted to enter the game.  This scene is important for a few reasons.

First, Ronnie Kwok, the game master, is absolutely hilarious. In case you aren’t aware, let me clue you in on a little something. Role playing gamers can be a little….different. They’re doing what makes them happy, so no problems there, but this subculture can get quite cliquey. People with the slightest power, like Ronnie, can get on quite the power trip. Jimmi Simpson absolutely nailed this role. He excels at the nerd with power. He’s the definition of a guy who has nothing else going on in his life, so the little bit of power he does have in the game, he runs amok with it. Some of the stuff that comes out of this guy’s mouth – some of which he sings for some bizarre reason – is truly funny.

The other important thing to note about this part of the movie is that Ronnie tells Eric (who is the “wizard” of the group) he has to perform kind of spell to bring the character to life; or something equally as goofy. Eric whips out his “spell book” to do his thing. What he doesn’t know is that the book is a genuine ancient spell book capable of real magic and that his spell accidentally unleashes a demon. Oh yeah and the demon looks like Joe’s ex-girlfriend, ha!

 Knights of Badassdom

Nobody really notices until bodies start piling up. The demon is a nasty one. It basically eats people and consumes their souls in the process.  Once they realize that what’s going on, they have to formulate a plan to great rid of this evil before it kills them all.

I can’t say I never heard of this movie. I do remember seeing a poster or two pop up sometime last year. I don’t think I ever saw a trailer for it and I definitely don’t remember hearing anything about it once it came out. I believe it had a very limited release, because barely made over $100,000. Yeah, I said one hundred thousand, not million. Actually, I’m looking it up now and it was only released in 13 theaters, so not many people saw it. The reviews weren’t great either (there wasn’t a lot of them, but they weren’t positive).

Well I say nuts to that, because I thought this movie was hysterical. It really captured the whacky world that is role-playing games quite well. I’m never LARPed, but I have dabbled in other types of role-playing games and let me tell you, for a group of outcasts, those guys can be quite cliquey, unwelcoming, and egotistical. The way this movie accurately portrayed and made fun of that was pretty accurate. I laughed loudly and often while watching this movie. I really lost it few times and am smiling right now thinking of a couple of the parts that made me laugh.  I wouldn’t call this movie raunchy, because it wasn’t.  But if you like goofy – if not stupid – comedies, with a little bit of horror thrown in, and a pinch of heavy metal, check it out. It’s worth the watch. I didn’t know what to expect but was legitimately entertained.
I have to give a shout out to Peter Dinklage and Jimmi Simpson. Peter Dinlage is just an awesome actor. The guy’s range is wide. I remember first seeing him in Elf. He’s done a bunch of dramas over the years. We saw him in The Station Agent not that long ago, which I genuinely enjoyed. But he doesn’t let it go to his head, because the dude can still do a stupid comedy and do it well. Jimmi Simpson just cracked me the hell up as the game master. He really hit the nail on the head with this role. A job well done sir. The other actors were just fine, but these two stood out.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on August 1, 2014.

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