I feel the need to preface this recommendation with a few points. First off, this “movie” was originally released online as a web series. It only became a feature length film because all the episodes in the first season were pieced together and presented as such on Netflix, Much like Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Second; there are some major flaws in both the writing and execution of this movie (I’m going to refer to it as a movie rather than a web series because it’s easier). It’s cheesy, to the point of being painful at parts, it falls flat on quite a lot of jokes to the point of making me cringe. I very nearly turned it off around the 15 minute mark. But I didn’t; I gave it a chance and something started to happen. As the movie progressed the jokes got funnier, the gags began to get not just funny, but hilarious. By the end I was determined that I not only loved it, but had to let others know about it. And that’s exactly what I’m doing here: I highly recommend watching Video Game High School.
One of the things that made this movie instantly better was realizing that it was made for the internet and originally intended to to be seen as series rather than as a single whole film. The fact that a series flows far differently from a stand alone film made it easier to get past the painful first act. What piqued my interest in the film was that it was highly rated amongst Netflix users and was listed an “Indie Comedy” movie. The premise sounded like a bad children’s novel, but I gave it a shot. In the near future, Gaming becomes the biggest spectator sport in the world, the demand for elite gamers skyrockets, creating the need for special schools that cater to train aspiring “athletes”. Video Game High School is the nations most prestigious gaming school. Brian D (Jimmy Wong) kills Video Game High’s top student on a fluke (In game), and instantly receives an invitation to the school in order to hone his skills.
VGHS takes the rapid fire joke approach to comedy. It’s a maneuver that at first feels forced and uncomfortable, but soon pays off in big ways. It’s a giant homage to those that grew up playing video games, it takes jabs at different genre games and the players that love them. It’s a typical High School comedy in that it shows the new kid struggling to fit in, he falls for the popular girl whose boyfriend is the school jock, he has tremendous pressure to perform yada yada ya, we’ve seen it a hundred times. This time, however it’s all just there to fuel the clever writing and funny sight gags. Seriously, this movie had me laughing harder than most comedies to come out in recent memory. It took time to warm up to it, but when I did I not only laughed at the jokes, but I had fun with the story and became interested in the characters, especially their relationships to one another.
The most impressive aspect of this movie is the production value. For an internet series, I expected to see cheap sets and props and terrible effects, if any. On the contrary, the sets were beautiful. The High School itself took no stretch of the imagination to view it as a high tech school for gamers. Most of the games take place in a First Person Shooter environment. When the characters play the game we (the audience) see them in the battle field fighting as if they were in a real war. The action sequences were great by any standards. Sharp editing and slick cinematography show us that the forces behind the technical aspects of Video Game High School certainly delivered on their end.
This is a shining example of how much potential there is in the non-Hollywood film market. A very talented group of filmmakers crowd sourced the funding for a project on the internet and made something that was their own. The content and release wasn’t dictated by studios or the MPAA. With all it’s flaws, VGHS is still a triumph, it was made for and paid by the masses. It was well enough received that they’re in the process of making a second season, something that I will eagerly be waiting for.
I watched VGHS as a series and it does work much better. Brian D’s character always seemed to bug me as I was rooting for him, but he was so bipolar. Freddie Wong and company did a great job and I can’t wait to see VGHS Season 2.
This is on my ever growing list of movies that I should watch. Sounds like I should bump it up the list a bit.
[…] films, I found myself bending slightly by reviewing the “movie” version of the web series Video Game High School. What was presented on Netflix as a feature film, was actually the entire first season of Rocket […]