Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 26 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Horror Violence, Language Throughout, some Drug Use and Sexuality
Directed by: Joe Lynch
Written by: Kevin Dreyfuss & Matt Wall
Starring: Ryan Kwanten, Steve Zahn, Peter Dinklage, Summer Glau, Margarita Levieva, Jimmi Simpson & Danny Pudi
It’s impossible to properly review KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM without delving a bit into the three-year-long wait that fans endured and the messy studio politics that befell the final cut of the film. The trailer and rough cut of KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM originally premiered at the San Diego Comic-Con a few years back to much fanfare. Supposedly a theatrical release was in tow, but there were problems with the studio (to say the least). The big business suits recut the film (supposedly changing up the direction, the tone, and snipping out a good portion of the running time). The resulting cut is the one that recently received a limited theatrical run, a VOD release, and is now available everywhere on home video, much to director Joe Lynch’s dismay. Obviously, I cannot judge the unseen director’s cut, but I can say that there aren’t many echoes of a potentially good film that can be seen in this final cut. I seriously doubt that the original version was much better than this lame attempt at a horror-comedy.
A slacker named Joe is suffering from the recent break-up from his girlfriend. After getting him high and drunk, his two nerdy best friends shanghai him in full costume to a LARP. Reluctantly Joe finds some fun in the goofy surroundings. Everyone’s enjoyment is ruined when Eric, a misguided level-26 wizard, uses a real spell during the game and winds up summoning a succubus from Hell (that bears a striking resemblance to Joe’s ex-girlfriend). As the game goes on, the bodies pile up from the bloodthirsty witch and the fake heroes must summon the real courage to defeat the beautiful demon.
KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM could have been a lot of fun with a clever script and good direction. Joe Lynch has proved himself to be quite the funny guy in the past with his wraparound segment in 2011’s CHILLERAMA and co-starring role in the horror sitcom HOLLISTON. To be fair, BADASSDOM is not fully his creation, seeing as the producers seemingly butchered this final cut. He’s responsible for a portion of it. From what I could see in this reduced 86-minute long cut was that most of the humor (some of which did get a few chuckles out of me) consists of the same joke hammered in over and over again. We get that the LARPers are taking this stuff very seriously and treating it as an epic quest, which does make for some funny scenes (e.g. the introduction of each kingdom).
The cast showcases some big names. The most notable of which for nerds is GAME OF THRONES’ Peter Dinklage. Dinklage can be an amazing actor given the right role and has a knack for good comedy (see ELF for his memorable scenes). Here the man isn’t given a whole lot to do and, true to every character featured, isn’t that compelling. I didn’t root for any of these people to succeed simply because I didn’t care about them at all. The usually hilarious Steve Zahn seems to be phoning it in as well. Ryan Kwanten and Summer Glau are equally as bland as the leads. The only real shining star that I enjoyed watching was Jimmi Simpson (a recurring actor on IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA). He’s the only cast member that got any chuckles out of me and seems to be giving it his all as the douchebag game master. This character takes himself way too seriously (speaking entirely in Middle English, save for a couple of out-of-game moments) and provided the highlights of the entire film (one of which is given near the beginning).
The effects themselves range from solid practical man-in-suit work to really crappy CGI that looks unfinished. The real criminal sin in KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM has already been mentioned though and that’s the lack of laughs. It’s a horror-comedy without any great jokes or solid scares. The film has the production values of a glorified Syfy Channel movie that happened to snag some big names to get involved with it. This is no insult to Joe Lynch, because the man delivers solid horror-comedy (aforementioned CHILLERAMA) when he’s given the right material to do so. KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM just seems like a miss for everybody involved, lest we mentioned the viewer’s precious time that’s wasted watching this garbage.
At a scant 86 minutes, KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM feels far too long. Most of the jokes seem to be hitting the exact same mark over and over again. It’s an entire movie based around one joke that doesn’t have the creativity to expand on a clever premise in creative ways. The effects work on the final monster is decent enough, but almost every other effect took me right out of the film in evaluating how corny it looked. Peter Dinklage and Steve Zahn are wasted, while Jimmi Simpson is one of the only redeeming things here. This is a forced comedy that’s seldom funny. KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM doth sucketh quite heartily!