Hello, and welcome to another installment of Netflix Dumpster Dive! This is a review series in which I find a movie that looks to be dismissable or uninteresting on Netflix (or another video site if it happens not much is drawing my eye), and evaluate it for anyone looking for something to watch. In the future, I may do two to three movies at a time depending on length to fit the “dumpster dive” imagery, but for now, I’ll be taking a look at only one movie, for the purpose of keeping things neat.
In each post, the review will be divided into two segments, the first a general review without spoilers for those who want to watch the movie with surprises intact, and the second allowing spoilers to elaborate my points about the movies strengths and weaknesses.
This installment will follow another fairly known film, but one I want to give more attention to, Knights of Badassdom.
Originally, I was going to begin the deep dig into the realm of obscurity this post, but I wanted to avoid over-saturating the series with vanilla horror from the beginning, and decided to take a step in a different direction for the sake of diversity. Since this is a fairly well known movie, but still missing the degree of attention I believe it deserves.
With its score of 3.3 and a star-filled cast, this movie of course is not a no name film. However, due to its content (Live Action Roleplay/LARP), title, and visual style, it does not shock me many have not been introduced to it, or have glossed it over (I know at one time I did plenty).
Without further ado, let’s hop into the review.
SPOILER FREE REVIEW
If you’re not sure whether this movie is worth watching, and want an assessment without any plot spoilers, this section is for you.
Overall Personal Rating: 8/10 (4 Stars on Netflix)
- Total time is 1 hour and 25 minutes (rounded by Netflix)
- Violence: 8/10 (Bloody, graphic violence spaced throughout)
- Language: 8/10 (“Fuck” is worst word said, said quite often)
- Nudity: 1/10 (A woman’s bare back is the most nude anyone gets)
- Sexual Content: 5/10 (Sex is referenced mainly, and there are more blunt references, but nothing is shown directly)
- Drugs & Alcohol: 5/10 (Shrooms, marijuana, alcohol usage decently present)
Where it Excels:
- Great Comedic Timing and Content in General
- Characters are Almost Always Believable/Endearing in One Way or Another
- Straightforward Plot
- Practical Effects Tend to be Well-Executed
Where it Falls Short:
- Writing Occasionally Poor
- CG/Visual Effects Mediocre at Best
As I said up at the top, there was a time where I did not bother to watch Knights of Badassdom because I thought it was going to be a mediocre, cringe-inducing film. However, upon closer inspection, and seeing the cast (Peter Dinklage and Steve Zahn? Yes, please.) I decided to give it a watch.
I was not disappointed. As I watched the first scene, I felt myself become hooked right away. Everyone, and I mean everyone, had such a great performance for a film like this, right from the start. I was drawn in by the way the writing and acting and directing all just felt right together. Normally, I am not the comedy movie type, but I could not help myself when the characters’ dialogue was so relatable, quick-witted, and funny.
The movie goes from start to finish, just telling you what was happening, a bit of why, and then just letting you sit back and enjoy. In a comedy movie where things get “spooky” or supernatural, a lot of times, the writers will like to over-force a half-assed explanation throughout, but this movie does not do so, and God bless them for that.
To reiterate the writing of the characters being almost always on point, it was apparent throughout that the only characters I wholly disliked were the ones who were written that way. Every single one of the characters, even if I disagreed with them or found something offputting about them, had an understandable and relatable motive and personality that kept me from actively hating them. Couple that with the aforementioned humor, and the writing was a treat well served.
This movie also kept most of its effects practical, which was greatly appreciated. I cannot complain once about these effects at all. To segue into my point on the mediocre CG effects, there was a stark contrast with the authentic feel of the of the practical ones. Various scenes where it looked less like real gore, etc. and more like a B-horror movie from the 80s. These offputting moments are few, but one is so crucial to the movie it had to be mentioned.
I will also touch on the occasionally poor nature of the writing. Most often, as I said, the writing is great, keeps everything entertaining, etc., but at times, certain little things said or done will raise my eyebrow and make me wonder why that happened, or how someone knew to do this or that. This issue is even more minor than the CG, I would say.
Knights of Badassdom is, on the whole, a fun, exciting comedy/horror movie. It takes the world of D&D and LARPing and turns it into a really interesting environment, whether you like that stuff or not (I will touch on that more in the Spoiler section). I without a doubt recommend this movie if you want to sit down, have a laugh, and see some nerdy guys and girls have a good time (most of the time). If any of this sounds good to you, then I highly suggest taking a look at Knights of Badassdom.
STRAIGHT FROM THE SOURCE (SPOILERS)
From this point forward, I will be discussing many of my points using specific examples straight from the movie itself. If you are interested in watching Knights of Badassdom devoid of spoilers, I suggest not continuing reading until you have done so.
As this is a comedy film, I am fairly sure people want most to know about the humor in the movie. That will be the main focus of this section, as well as on the LARP aspect of the movie.
First, I am going to discuss the LARP theme of Knights of Badassdom, simply because understanding it a bit helps relate to the humor more. The movie does not explain LARPing or D&D at length, just a basic tutorial for Ryan Kwanten’s character, Joe. The movie does a good job of making LARPing seem like a lot of fun. I remember it doing so back before I ever had an interest in tabletop games. Maybe this is because of the characters’ personalities? It’s difficult to say for sure what the defining factor was, because all factors of the LARPing hit so well with me. At the same time, however, the movie is actively self-depreciative to LARPing as well. While most of the Roleplayers are likeable and funny, a good portion of the funny aspect is because the characters have a charming lameness to them. Kind of like what people see in the characters from The Big Bang Theory, though in a wildly different style and environment (and a much more entertaining one, in my opinion). Peter Dinklage’s character, Hung, often says something that normally would be eye-rolling out of context, but in context and with his character’s personality, comes off as perfect. A perfect example is toward the beginning, Joe comes home pissed off and ignores Hung and Eric (Steve Zahn), until Hung stops him only to say “Dude… you bent my mace.”
While on the topic, I think it is important to also touch on the characters’ motives and chemistry. All the LARPers, even Joe, who does not feel like he belongs, banter and converse in such ways that you can feel that these are friends who have been doing the whole tabletop thing nonstop since high school, maybe even before. Joe, since he stepped away from D&D before his friends started LARPing, has a history with some characters, which comes forward subtly in all the right places. In addition, every character, no matter if you agree with them or not, makes you empathize with their point of view. The only exception to this are the side antagonists of the film, the redneck, paintball gang that exists solely to wreak havoc on the LARPers, though one is severely injured by Eric’s evil book, so even that motivation is fair at the end of the film. (This is a good time to mention that the subplot leading to the main antagonist of the film involves an ancient book that summons demons. The movie explains it well enough for me not to go too far into detail.) A prime example is how when Joe’s girlfriend, Beth, breaks up at him at the beginning of the movie, while I was totally on Joe’s side, I could completely see where Beth was coming from. Joe has an engineering degree, but still plays in a band, is a part-time mechanic, and lives with Eric who happened upon his fortune totally by chance, when he could be doing anything, which is holding Beth back from her future. While I thought she was being shallow and self-centered, she had a point. Joe is very childish and stubborn in the beginning of the movie, and doesn’t change much other than getting over his relationship with Beth by the end. Both were right in their own ways, but I empathized with Joe more. Most movies will make one character wholly right and the other horribly wrong so you make no mistake who you’re rooting for, which does not come off nearly as realistic.
Humor wise, I want to reiterate that the movie does timing and characters so well that every joke hits as it should. Hung is awkward in a charming way: he has no clue how to comfort Joe about the breakup, until he decides to get him stoned instead of sitting around thinking about Beth. The whole reason he can recognize the main antagonist as being a demon and not a normal person is because of the shrooms he took before the LARP started. He constantly is more of the weirdo of the group, where Eric is fairly normal, though he cracks under pressure and gets flustered a lot. Joe, being clueless, in a way represents the audience, unaware of what’s going on, though we want him to succeed. All the side characters augment the main three’s journey, and the unique personalities all of the above bring in make the situations that present more humorous. On top of the 80s references and LARP-based jokes, the comedy is definitely a step above a lot of modern comedy in my opinion.
As for the visual effects, I will say to just be prepared for some hokey CG. That is about all I can really tell you without spoiling the experience in the climax I want the audience to have.
Again, this is high on my recommendations list for comedy fans, and for people who are into the tabletop genre. Both groups will enjoy the experience front to back, so if you are in need of a fun, funny movie, be sure to check out Knights of Badassdom.
Thank you for reading! Netflix Dumpster Dive is planned to be a monthly series. I intended for one at the end of November, but just fell short as the Thanksgiving season made working at a grocery store a nerve-wracking experience, and I had trouble finding the time to sit down, watch a movie, and write without being to exhausted to think about the project. If all goes as planned, another will be out before the new year, but if not, will be at the beginning of January. Follow the site if you enjoyed, and I will see you all next time!
©2016 Vincent C. Russo. All Rights Reserved.
I claim no rights to the film mentioned here, nor any shot from it. All rights to the film and its content go to their respective owners. This post is intended for review only, and constitutes fair use.