Providing an escape valve for Andrew Kevin Walker, known for far more serious films about would-be serial killers (8MM, Seven), Nerdland is an almost biting commentary on Hollywood that would appear to be more at home on the small screen (had it not been crudely drawn for Cinemascope).
The animation chronicles the adventures of two deranged dudes, John (voiced by Paul Rudd), a freelance writer for Concessioner Monthly, a trade magazine for movie exhibitors, and Elliot (Patton Oswalt), a budding screenwriter who finds time between videos games and nothing else to write a D-grade flick with gratuitous T & A. If the picture sounds bleak already, don’t worry it gets worse, even if it does come with a warning: the song that plays in the title sequence tells us to “get our hopes up.”
A parody of low-level Hollywood and the quest for instant stardom forces John and Elliot to try everything from delivering a check to a homeless man who robs them to inciting an incident of police brutality. Each incident inspires chuckle or two but the film is unfortunately without belly laughs.
More violent than sexual (although not the crude), Nerdland is a curious creation. Crudely drawn in the style of Adult Swim shows, it’s actually quite short on the nerd appeal, creating its own cultural references. The picture is also short on character development with a one-note joke that pushes the boundaries as far as it can go in 85 minutes, all while overstaying its welcome, should director Chris Prynoski and team decide to expand this universe into episodic content.
John and Elliot are thin and self-centered parodies of unsuccessful 30-somethings still fighting the good fight between dead-end jobs and dreams – one of which includes fame at any cost. They spend their days in arrested development, heading to the mall to hit on two equally as self-centered hotties that work at Fashion Urge.
The only time our heros really let their nerd flag fly is when they visit the self-professed King of Nostalgia, the film’s very own comic book guy, voiced by Hannibal Buress. His highness wheels and deals in all kinds of backroom bootleg entertainment, including his contraband Video XV, a mash up of the most violent kill scenes in movie history; a necessary text as John and Elliot decide one path to fame is a killing spree.
What follows is a film that quite passively entertains, never quite achieving the level a level of real hilarity. Nerdland may play better at home after a few drinks and/or other substances. With a voice cast that includes Mike Judge, Molly Shannon, Paul Scheer, Charlene Yi and Sal “The Stock Broker” Governale, you pretty much know what you’re getting yourself into here and unfortunately Nerdland doesn’t offer many surprises.
Nerdland premiered at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival.