The Wizard Reviews
"i love the power glove, it's so...bad"
Despite the fact that the plot is difficult to quickly summarize, the plot is empty and kind of frustrating. The objective of the film is obviously show off the multiple Nintendo products throughout, but the movie isn't about the video games themselves or even the competition really. It's not like the two kids runaway to go to an actual video game competition, they're running away for a mysterious reason (Jimmy barely utters more than five sentences throughout so you never know why he's hell-bent on going to California) and just happen to bump into a character that later suggests they go to the competition that's coincidently in California. At least half of the movie is just spent on the road as Corey, Jimmy and later Haley get in all sorts of situations that in real life would be incredibly dangerous. They run away together, hitchhike on the highway, walk through long stretches of deserted road together with no money, gamble with strangers to get cash for food and overall just have no idea where they're really going. Several times throughout the brother or the trio bump into adults or teenagers that end up robbing them but they never think of calling for help or going back home because the plot demands they keep on going so they can get to the big conclusion. The movie is infamous for showing off the Power Glove when the protagonists encounter Lucas (Jackey Vinson) a rival video gamer and for its awesome reveal of Super Mario Brothers 3 but those play a very small part in the overall plot, which mainly focusses on a bunch of kids that are lucky to make it on the road without getting themselves killed.
All of the adults in the film are either one-dimensional villains or just idiotic beyond belief. The children get robbed not once, but twice by different groups of people and very few times are there any adults that actually offer them any help whatsoever. If the father really cared about getting his children back why is he competing against Putman, the character who is getting paid to retrieve Jimmy? Sure, you can kind of understand why Putman is not really co-operating with the father because his thinly developed character makes all of his livings from retrieving children but he goes overboard with his task. It gets to the point where the two competing adults are assaulting each other and destroying their vehicles in order to slow the other down. Can't they put aside their differences for a few days to get the children back? You could argue that there wouldn't be a plot without this conflict but that simply isn't true. There is a ton of sub plots in the film with the rivalry Corey and Jimmy have with Lucas, the video game tournament, the mystery of California, Haley's backstory and more. About the mom in the film. Sure, she doesn't go overboard and also try to go on a cross-country tour to look for her son so she seems like a more reasonable character but that's simply not true. If your kid was so traumatized that all he could mumble was "California" over and over, wouldn't you try and maybe go to California or look inside the lunchbox he is carrying around with him all the time? why is the big solution to send him off to a mental asylum when you know why your son is so traumatized? Although the reason for Jimmy's trauma is known by the members of his family, its not revealed in the plot until much later so I won't spoil it but it proves my point. The answers of course is because the plot demands so.
For everything that's bad in the movie there are quite a few bits that are sweet and as a bad movie that you can just make fun of with your group of friends, it gets to be a blast. Corey and Haley have some good moments together without going into a predictable overboard romance, and when the movie isn't being contrived, they have some good scenes together with Jimmy. The real entertainment comes from when the movie is just over-the-top. Nearly all of the characters are cardboard cutouts and they're easy targets for jokes. The movie stops just short of making the antagonists devil worshippers out to deliberately ruin the children's lives. Without giving anything away you won't believe the people the trio encounter, they might as well be stealing candy from a baby they're so bad. Another character worth noting is Putman. In any other movie a character who specializes in tracking down runaways would be the hero but here, he's the biggest jerk of them all. He goes out of his way to act creepy, sabotages other people's efforts to find the children and basically tells the audience he's a bad guy when he admits he just cares about the money. Lucas is overplayed as the best, most awesome guy ever in a mix of a genuine rival, a slimy cheater and a teenage heartthrob. Every time he showed up on the screen people were making fun of his cronies, the fact that everyone was calling him awesome and the obvious fact that the director wanted to make him into a villain you don't want to like but do because he's so hot. This is going to sound awful, but Jimmy is also particularly hilarious in his zombie-like performance. The kid can barely utter a complete sentence, cannot function in a normal society but is an expert at playing video games. His character feels like a meaty role that was cut down to size when the director realized the kid couldn't act. Taken out of context, the scenes with the young boy would make you think he's from a ridiculous public service announcement that's denouncing the effects of Nintendo on young children and a scene where he is so excited that he screams "Fornia! California!" made me laugh out loud.
It's a lame children's movie that won't satisfy fans of the Nintendo brand except in an ironic way. The characters are taken out of a 6-minute cartoon, the product placement is so exaggerated it becomes funny and the fact that the movie is directionless for such a long time makes you wonder what the writer was thinking. As a film that's "so bad it's good though", what a gem. You've heard the quotable lines from this movie ("I love the power glove... it's so bad") and you've seen the ridiculous, iconic scenes parodied and referenced all over the place. The final competition where Jimmy, Lucas and a character that's introduced at the very end of the plot just so they can have three contestants barely makes any sense but has so much production thrown at the screen and so much energy that it works as a great climax that will have you cheering out loud and laughing hard. It's a video game movie that feels like it was written by people more concerned about selling products and fulfilling their contractual obligations than making a good film for children or about video games. It's a big disaster, but the kind of disaster that earns itself a cult status. (Dvd, August 9, 2013)