Zero Charisma: Film Review

Fanboy-centric pic could use a more developed plot

A "Dungeons & Dragons"-obsessed nerd loses the only friends who think he's cool.

MONTREAL — A portrait in dorkdom that sees only the faintest glimmers of hope for its fantasy-obsessed protagonist, Katie Graham and Andrew Matthews' Zero Charisma offers a man-child with, as the title suggests, substantially less appeal than the similarly stunted heroes of the Apatow universe. Sam Eidson is perfect for the lead role, but that doesn't exactly guarantee the fanboy crowd will embrace the film; with funnier, more winning movies treading similar ground, this one has limited appeal outside festivals.

Eidson plays Scott, an adult who lives with his Nana and has hosted the same weekly gathering of nerds for years; the game they play resembles Dungeons and Dragons -- a "game master" narrates action involving orcs and wizards, players spin many-sided dice to determine whether their swords will draw blood -- but Scott takes pains to inform strangers that it is not. This exercise of "communal storytelling" is a game of "my own design," he explains.

Scott's game-master authority is challenged by newcomer Miles (Garrett Graham), who not only has an impressive mastery of geek arcana -- he authoritatively settles the group's longstanding "Which would win in a race: the Starship Enterprise or Millennium Falcon?" debate -- but is also a hipster known and accepted by cool people. And unlike virginal Scott, he has a beautiful girlfriend who thinks nerds are sexy.

It's one thing to be looked down upon by society for being fat, balding, undateable and barely employed; it's another to have your fellow outcasts stop looking up to you. Matthews's script establishes the crisis handily, but is less sure of where to go from there. Mock Scott's journey through the depths of bitterness and self-pity? Seek pathos in his identity crisis? Find ways for the outside world to finally creep into Scott's awareness and enrich his soul? In the end it offers a few tantrums, some bridges burnt and rebuilt, and a not-very-productive subplot involving Scott's prodigal mother, returned in hopes of selling Nana's house and moving her into a retirement home. It stops short of leaving its would-be hero in despair, but never finds a reason for those who don't share his fixations to identify with him.

Production Companies: Magic Stone Productions, Shark Films

Cast: Sam Eidson, Brock England, Garrett Graham, Anne Gee Byrd, Cyndi Williams, Brian Losoya, Vincent Prendergast, Dakin Matthews

Directors-Producers-Editors: Katie Graham, Andrew Matthews

Screenwriter: Andrew Matthews

Producers: Thomas Fernandes, Ezra Venetos

Executive producers: Michael Stephenson, Lindsay Stephenson, Rod Olson, Chris Hardwick, Peter Levin, Jonah Ray, Harvey Guion, Hathleen Guion, Allan Boscacci, Patricia Boscacci, Dakin Matthews, Neil Wilson, Jarrod Thalheimer

Director of photography: Ellie Ann Fenton

Production designer: John Parker

Music: Bobby Tahouri

Costume designer: Elise Garza

No rating, 87 minutes