Gamers have yet to have our own equivalent to Bull Durham, which is one of the most celebrated sports movies of all time, due to its portrayal of baseball, its players, and its fans, for those not familiar.
And while The FP, the debut new film by the Trost Bros, is hardly perfect, it's the first legit goofball comedy that speaks to gamers without flat-out insulting them.
That is an achievement all by itself.
Let's put this video game movie in some context, because all video game movies carry a bunch of baggage.
First of all, many gamers are still obsessed with what film critic Roger Ebert has to say about video games. Whereas others have wondered why his opinions on the subject even matter in the first place. One possibility is the frustration that gamers have with movies in general (which has extended to one of its most preeminent voices)—primarily, their lack of voice in the echelon of motion pictures.
Sure, there are plenty of quality game related documentaries in existence, including King of Kong and Indie Game The Movie, with even more on the horizon, like Minecraft: The Story of Mojang. Hopefully at least one of the half dozen or so upcoming looks at the closing of Chinatown Fair will be decent as well. But when it comes to works of fiction, it's a different story.
Movies based directly on games will always struggle, due to the inherent challenges of transposing the narrative from one form to another. But films that attempt to satirize, dramatize, and ultimately celebrate tropes and ideals that gamers can identify with is where ball is being dropped. At best, they miss the mark, and at worst, they're just flat out insulting. Grandma's Boy, anyone?
The FP is the story of JTRO, younger brother of BTRO; the elder sibling was the hero of the 248, the noble "clan" that once protected Frazier Park from the nefarious 245, headed by L Dubba E, an all around jerk. How are scores settled, by the way? Head to head battles via Dance Dace Revolution. Or Beat Beat Revelation, as it's called in the movie. But when BTRO dies on the dance mat, by the feet of his rival, the FP is turned upside down.
Stricken by grief, JTRO goes into hiding, prompting L Dubba E to become the new big boss, and everything goes straight to hell. One year later, BTRO's pals demand that his younger brother step up and set things right, but he is reluctant at first. Even hearing of L Dubba E's control of the community's liquor supply has no effect. But with fewer drunks on the street, there are fewer people to feed the ducks at the park—so even birds are suffering under the 245 regime!
It's only when JTRO discovers that the girl of his dreams is now the new girlfriend of L Dubba E that he decides to answer the challenge and begins training for an eventual, winner takes all showdown. Not surprisingly, the narrative mostly plays out in typical Karate Kid-like fashion, yet there's much more. At times, The FP feels like a bizarre combination of other movies, including The Warriors, Airplane!, Napoleon Dynamite, and even Blue Velvet.
The main thrust of The FP is how everything supposedly takes place in some bizarre, dystopian future. That point is driven home by everyone's bizarre, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome-attire and the even stranger dialect, which feels like the language spoken in A Clockwork Orange if it were re-written by SoCal arcade rats.
But the true brilliance of the movie is its false advertising. [Spoiler coming up!]
The best part (and sorry for the somewhat major spoiler) is the realization that The FP doesn't actually take place during the year 20XX, and how society as a whole hasn't crumbled, with survivors using DDR as the centerpiece of their brand new civilization. No, these are just dumb white trash morons who are completely in their own bubble. Anyone familiar with the show Trailer Park Boys should know already the comedy that one can get from such people.
As for the rest of the bits and pieces: the acting, for the most part, is serviceable and even charming. Jason Trost, one half of the directing duo, as well as the story's originator, does a fine job as JTRO, though I still wonder what the deal is with his vaguely Solid Snake/Big Boss get-up. Jason's real-life brother Brandon has helmed the camera for various Hollywood productions, and does the same here to good effect. The sets and locations chosen are also superb.
But The FP isn't perfect. The dialogue, while appropriate, is still extremely juvenile, and those unfamiliar with the inane trash talk uttered by competitive gamers will be especially turned off (even offended to various degrees). My biggest beef is with the Beat Beat Revelation segments themselves; the action is not nearly as fast and furious as one would hope. Those expecting the exciting moves that one can easily scope out on YouTube replays, but on the big screen, will be disappointed.
Speaking of which, a large part of The FP's mystique is how such a thing managed to make it on the large screen in the first place. One has to wonder how the production would feel if it was viewed on something smaller, like the confines of YouTube for example. It's essentially one of the many game-related parody flicks that you find on that end, but actually and fully realized. When judged against some of the aforementioned comedies, The FP honestly can't really compete.
In the annals of video game cinema, The FP is a notable achievement that is well worth scoping out...if only for the novelty factor of telling your friends that you went to the theaters and saw an 83-minute long movie about DDR.
Find out where you can see The FP via the movie's official website.
Matthew Hawkins is a NYC based game journalist who once upon a time used to be an editor for GameSetWatch, currently writes for MSNBC's In-Game, plus numerous other outlets, self-publishes his own game culture zine, is part of the Attract Mode collective, and co-hosts The Fangamer Podcast. You can keep tabs on his personal home-base, FORT90.com.