A (Kind of Film) Review: Knights of Badassdom

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I’m sitting at my computer struggling to write about the film Knights of Badassdom. I bought the movie the moment it went on-sale this afternoon, and now that I’ve finished watching it I don’t know how to capture the range of emotions I’m feeling.

The basic premise is this: A bunch of people go to a Live Action Role-Playing (LARP) event, and someone accidentally summons a demon. From there, hilarity and kill-arity ensue. In the movie’s background, there’s a subtle and ever-growing series of meta-references to real people, games, and events. But none of that is really the point of the film.

Really it’s exactly the kind of movie you’d make if you were the kind of person who made movies about role-playing games, and it stars the type of actors you’d want to hang out with if you hung out with actors. In every scene, I was saying hello to the actors: Joshua Malina (Sports Night, West Wing), Steve Zahn (Everything), Summer Glau (River Tam, a Terminator robot), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones where his family kills everyone), Dani Pudi (Troy and Abed in the Morning), and you get the picture.

In other words, it’s a love letter to the role-playing community but one that’s written in such a way that a general audience can still engage in the fun. I know the first part to be true because, well, I’m one of them; and I know the second part to be true because my wife, who has suffered through months of my work on Dungeons & Dreamers, laughed with the film from start to finish.

I often felt as I did when I watched Edgar Wright’s pop-up trivia balloons in Spaced and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World only in this movie the actual pop-up balloons weren’t on screen. Instead, I found myself providing them by announcing every reference that I saw, much to my wife’s chagrin.

Fortunately screenwriter/producer Matt Wall was there to support me on Twitter, favoriting some of my posts about the meta-references.

As a writer, I know the existential horror of letting your work float out into the masses. You never know quite what you’re going to get back. I’m sure this process was doubly difficult as the layers of in-game humor and meta-references must have been a nightmare to sell to normal humans. (See the reviews below for the whole backstory on that.)

But, as my wife said: “I didn’t understand any of the references and I still thoroughly enjoyed that story.”

Here’s the one problem I had with the film: The movie never trusts itself as much as it did in the first 15 minutes when its funny, self-deprecating, smart, and character driven. In the middle of Act 2, there’s a serious shift that redirects the whole tone. It’s a bit abrupt, and it takes a few minutes to recalibrate to the new direction.

That’s a minor quibble, though. The heart of the film never goes away. It’s an enjoyable film that sets out, and accomplishes, exactly what it wants. It’s one part Time Bandits, one part Evil Dead, and one part Cabin in the Woods. 

What other reviewers have said:

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This newsletter is the outgrowth of The Downtown Writers Jam podcast. What that means is I will collect information about the authors I interview, book happenings around the Web, and other literary events that I find interesting. Without you, I'm just a crazy guy sitting in his office furiously screaming on the page for no reason.
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