Sundance Journal: ‘Virtually Heroes’

‘Virtually Heroes’ is like a low-budget, live-action version of ‘Wreck-it Ralph’, about two videogame characters who become self-aware of the endless loop they’re living in. Too bad that the movie runs out of laughs twenty minutes in.

The first quarter of the movie has some funny references. The film understands how repetitive gaming can be and does a good job showing the effects of that on the characters. Imagine having to do the same thing over and over forever. As the game restarts time and again, the main character Books (Robert Baker) finds it increasingly difficult to get psyched about participating. He’s forced to try the same level again and again. Since he’s mastered certain aspects of it, he can walk through shooting enemies without even thinking about it. This kind of humor makes the first part of the movie funny.

That soon passes, unfortunately. Once it does, we’re left with a movie that’s just as repetitive as gaming can be. Books and his sidekick Nova (Brent Chase) are characters in a First Person Shooter set during the Vietnam War. “We’re in a videogame! And it’s not a particularly good one!” screams Books. It’s true. The game they’re in is one of the lamest you could ever imagine. One wonders why it’s being played in the first place.

Books is sick of getting killed over and over. All he wants is a kiss from the girl that waits for him at the end of the game.

The funniest bits of the movie come when Books is thrown into a cut-scene with the girl. Letterbox bars intrude on the top and bottom of the frame. Then the girl he’s after launches into long-winded expositional diatribes. Books just wants to get a kiss, but it’s not happening.

I laughed for the first few jokes, but the movie’s references soon become stale, and it doesn’t have interesting characters to keep the audience entertained. ‘Virtually Heroes’ would’ve worked very well as a 20-minute short. As a feature-length film, it falls completely flat. Game over.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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