Movie review: Don't let these Noobz pwn your wallet
We don't really see gamers perceived in movies, do we? Sure, you have people that occasionally play games in movies, but they're usually types who don't look like they game that much to begin with. (Example: Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis trying to enjoy the PlayStation Move in Friends With Benefits.) But with Noobz, director (and actor) Blake Freeman attempts to make light of the eSports scene, revolving around a story of four odd teammates who attempt to "win it all" at the Cyber Bowl III tournament in California, where the main event revolves around Gears of War 3.
Upon its release on video-on-demand this week, I approached the movie with caution, following a scathing review that went up on Game Informer, ripping it to pieces over homophobic and racial jokes, and just being awful. (The war of words that followed between its author and Freeman on Twitter was said to be funnier than the film. And the word "musician" was somehow used.) But after sitting through it, I didn't really feel much of anything. No chuckles, no "they got it right" feeling, just the sense that my time – and money – were practically wasted on something that should've been wayyyyyy better.
The movie introduces us right away to the members of the team – lazy Cody (Freeman), who doesn't hesitate when his hot buxom wife leaves him for being worthless; Oliver (Matt Shively), a kid who has all the characteristics of being gay but still refuses to admit it; Andy (Jason Mewes – yes, Jay from Jay and Silent Bob), an enthusiastic Play-n-Trade manager with unpredictable behavior; and Hollywood, who at first we think is actor Casper Van Dien, but is in fact his girlfriend's younger kid Hollywood (Moises Arias). Oh, and the girlfriend? An old showgirl. Yuck.
Also introduced over the course of the story are two other characters – Ricki (Zelda Williams – Robin's daughter), a member of the Pixies clan who Andy has a ridiculous crush on; and Armagreggon (Jon Gries), a Billy Mitchell type who just wants to crush everyone while playing Frogger. They get involved in the story over the course of the film, but they don't necessarily make it better. In fact, it just gets more confusing as it goes on.
Noobz is the sort of movie that's stacked with jokes – most of them sex related, unsurprisingly – but none of them really generate memorable laughs. There are a couple of moments that'll make you smirk slightly – like Adam Sessler, playing himself, trying to interview one of the younger "Black Assassins" players and getting cursed at – but others just drag on, including a painful encounter at a mini mart (when Cody asks for a hug from a young girl, ahd chaos ensues) and Bill Bellamy dragging on as a play-by-play podcaster. The addition of a strip club scene with an obese woman also feels unnecessary – and gives Oliver more opportunity to look awkward.
The performances are unconvincing for the most part. Freeman never really explains why Cody is the way he is, playing him with a "who the hell cares" attitude that we never connect with. (He's like the slacker you'd make fun of at the bus station.) Shively and Arias feel wasted in second-hand roles, playing for laughs that never come – especially the former, the victim of too many gay jokes. Mewes provides some good improvisational energy, though he relies on it too much. (Note one scene where he bellows at the top of his lungs in a Wahoo's Fish Tacos early on -- he almost looks like he wants Silent Bob to run in.) And Casper Van Dien is barely in the movie, though a moment where he threats to kick folks off his lawn at any second unless they pay him $30 for an autograph sounds about right.
If anything, the only actors who seem to come away unscathed are Williams, who plays Ricki with surprisingly genuine charm, and Gries, who, like in Napoleon Dynamite, does decent work on Armagreggon – even if it's a bit much at times. (Shooting whipped cream, bro? Really? How un-Mitchell like.)
And, honestly, the ending obliterates anything that the movie goes for. Not only is the final tournament negated over the stupidest of actions (as well as what follows), but the ending vignettes destroy any little progress that it made. One final desperate ploy for laughs that leaves you wondering what the hell just happened. You won't even feel like staying for the end-of-film bloopers.
Noobz is terrible. Every bit of its potential is squandered in a ho-hum script that scrapes desperately for laughs and characters that never generate interest. (And, again, we're still not quite sure why Cody would give up such a hot wife for a game – not everything is "bros before hoes".) If you want to see comedy represented right in gaming, stick with The Guild. They'll serve you better…even if without "Starship Troopers guy".