Review

Review

FEARNET Movie Review: 'Knights of Badassdom'

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It takes a lot of skill, creativity, and good humor to combine geek culture, broad humor, low-budget action scenes, and a big splash of horror mayhem -- and have your movie turn out to be a success. Doubly so when your movie has been sitting on a shelf for a year after suffering through some ugly and well-documented post-production trauma. But given the tone, the trouble, and the multi-genre-style weirdness behind the clunky but energetic Knights of Badassdom, it's pretty amazing that the final product is actually halfway entertaining.

 
Much of the praise goes to an eclectic ensemble that seems to know how to strike the right tone between poking fun at the "Live Action Role Playing" community and just being mean-spirited. Ryan Kwanten is an affable wannabe rock star who (against his will) joins his pals Eric (Steve Zahn) and Hung (Peter Dinklage) for a long weekend of huge crowds and LARPing lunacy out in the forest. Unfortunately it seems that "level 27 wizard" Eric has accidentally conjured a demonic succubus who (eventually) starts hacking up all the knights and squires and bards. Oh my. Not to mention there's a gang of roving paintballers who hate those gosh darned Dungeons & Dragons freaks.
 
The "likable nerds who mistakenly conjure a monster" premise is, of course, nothing new, but there's a bit of novelty in seeing it used in LARP culture and, again, the cast does a thoroughly impressive job of making the good gags shine -- and also of making the weaker gags work to one degree or another. In addition to the adorable Zahn / Dinklage combo, Badassdom also offers some simple but consistently amusing contributions from actors like Jimmi Simpson, Summer Glau, Danny Pudi, Josh Molina, and the always awesome Brian Posehn.
 
It's in the editorial arena that you'd most likely notice the seams that exist because of extreme and probably excessive post-production tinkering -- which basically means that a simple, silly movie starts to feel sort of confused, plodding, and aimless on more than one occasion. Knights of Badassdom is at its best when the actors are simply rambling silly LARP vernacular and riffing off one another in sly and sarcastic fashion. (Simpson, in particular, saves more than one scene all by himself.) Aside from a crazy finale that involves a legitimately impressive-looking troll monster, the flick works considerably better as a "straight" comedy than as any sort of true "horror" comedy. In a movie like this we generally want more horror and less dialogue, but hey, sometimes things just go the other way. Also I happen to think Steve Zahn is very funny, no matter what words he happens to be saying.
 
Although reportedly dismissed from the film in post-production, screenwriter / producers Matt Wall & Kevin Dreyfuss and director Joe Lynch should not consider Knights of Badassdom a black hole on their respective resum├ęs. It's a clunky, scattershot, and periodically very messy piece of indie filmmaking, but the flick also has a lot of quick wit, a cast that clearly seems to like the material, and a handful of geek-friendly themes and sequences that managed to survive the post-production nightmares and, after all is said and done, just might find some new fans down the road.
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