'Nerdland': Tribeca Review
Paul Rudd and Patton Oswalt lend their voices to the year's second raunchy animated feature.
Premiering a month to the day after the SXSW bow of Sausage Party, a dirty-joke-stuffed animated feature with Sony and hitmakers Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg behind it, Chris Prynoski's Nerdland might be in danger of drowning in its wake if the two were anything alike. But while both are 'toons with a high raunch quotient, the former movie aims (very successfully) for a broad appeal while this one seems pleased to lurk in the margins, playing to those for whom Adult Swim ranks far higher than The Simpsons. Amusing but far from a laugh riot, the pic will fare well with devotees of the director's work on shows like Metalocalypse; marquee voice talent Paul Rudd and Patton Oswalt may help sell a small theatrical run, but it would be most at home in the cult-friendly wee hours on cable.
Rudd and Oswalt play L.A. roommates John (a failing-to-launch actor) and Elliot (a no-work-ethic would-be screenwriter), respectively. On a day when both are fired from jobs at the same time — it's happened before — and the future looks dim, the two make a pact that they will achieve fame by nightfall through sheer force of will. In a reality TV/YouTube age, how hard can it be?
Pretty hard. A few dimwitted attempts to go viral with contrived acts of heroism fail spectacularly, as does a stab at hacking the home page of a mutlinational computer company. Eventually, their thirst for fame points them down a darker path: Trying to prime themselves for acts so evil the world will have to pay attention, the fellas seek out Video XV, a feature-length supercut of carnage whose reputation on the bootleg video scene is so tremendous it may remind viewers of 8MM — which, like Nerdland, was penned by Andrew Kevin Walker.
Walker's other claim to fame is the script for Seven, which foreshadows this pic's mix of sleaze and moralizing. Nerdland wallows in graphic sex and violence (offering quick peeks at cartoon anuses and vulvas and long leers at boobies), but its real agenda is a skewering of fame-for-fame's-sake. That may be an evergreen target, but Nerdland's take on it would have been more appropriate in the early 2000s, a decade when the only movies with Walker's name on them were action-centric short promotional films for a luxury automaker.
Aside from a supporting turn by Hannibal Buress as a king-of-the-geeks character, the film's most diverting ingredients are its aggressively crude character design and its sickly color palette. This look and Prynoski's less-is-more animation style seem a clear acknowledgement that Nerdland was never meant for mainstream consumption — and would be almost as happy as a not-for-rental item in the back room of Buress' video store, passed conspiratorially from one sicko to the next.
Venue: Tribeca Film Festival (Viewpoints)
Production company: Titmouse
Cast: Paul Rudd, Patton Oswalt, Hannibal Buress, Riki Lindhome, Kate Micucci, Mike Judge, Reid Scott
Director: Chris Prynoski
Screenwriter: Andrew Kevin Walker
Producers: Gavin Polone, Andrew Kevin Walker
Executive producers: Chris Prynoski, Shannon Barrett Prynoski, Kat Landsberg
Production designer: Antonio Canobbio
Editors: Mark Brooks, Barry J. Kelly
Composer: Night Club
Not rated, 82 minutes