This year at Vancouver's Fan Expo, one of the final events was a screening of the movie Lloyd the Conqueror, a film shot in Calgary about LARPing... and if you don't know what LARPing is, you might not understand this movie or the appeal behind it. I had heard of it before and was even given a cinematic example of it in the 2008 comedy Role Models. That film was pretty good and it turns out LARPing has a natural cinematic quality because it's somewhat comedic in nature and is visually interesting. And for those of you out there who do it and think I'm making fun of you, come on, have a little fun and just look at it. LARP stands for Live Action Role Playing, which takes the concepts of Dungeons and Dragons and makes them more real by dressing up as their characters and physically battling one another to some sort of end. You get fake stabbed, you fake die and so on. It's for those who just love it so much that sitting around a table and using your imagination isn't good enough. Personally, I think I would rather LARP than play DnD... though I don't think I have the desire or even the time for either.
Anyway, the film follows Lloyd (Evan Williams) and his friends Patrick (Jesse Reid) and Oswald (Scott Patey)who go to a community college, but have the bad habit of procrastinating on their assignments until the last minute. When they have an oral presentation on Beowulf that they completely flunk, their grade point average is in jeopardy of falling to a D which will cut off their financial aid. Their professor Derek (Mike Smith) however is a champion LARPer and because of his winning streak there is a danger of the tournament taking place this year. When Lloyd and his friends plead for a redo of their failed assignment, he gives them a counter offer; they join the LARPing tournament and he will give them the passing grade that they need. If they win, he'll even give them an A+, but he is the undefeated champion. They accept his challenge, but know basically nothing about what they're getting into so they recruit help from the retired champion Andy (Brian Posehn), also known as The White Wizard.
The concept of the movie is really funny and it mostly follows through with what it promises. In fact, the concept is so funny that it's almost a shame that the script falls back on 'your mom' and balls jokes a lot of the time. It seems to me that it's unnecessary to get laughs. Though, I suppose one can argue that these characters aren't exactly beacons of good judgement and would talk like that, but it does sometimes feel like cheap laughs regardless. I guess I looks for a bit of class in my scripts, even when the characters are seemingly classless, but that's a difficult thing to balance so maybe I shouldn't be so picky.
At least it treats its subject matter with respect. It think it was Mel Brooks who said that in order to parody something, you must love it first. If LARPers can't see what's funny about their sport than this movie points it out pretty clearly, but it never feels disrespectful. If anything it pokes fun of those who take the game too far, but that could translate into any sport or game. But as I touched on before, this idea lends itself well to film and comedy because it's extremely visual. There are costumes and weapons and fighting and it is literally part of the story. I'm surprised there aren't more LARPing movies out there. The other one I can find about it is 2012's Unicorn City, which also looks pretty funny. I don't know which was conceived first.
While the three main leads are relatively unknown, there are a few familiar faces in the film. One is Mike Smith, who is known best for his role in the hit show Trailer Park Boys as Bubbles, but I didn't even realize it was him until I checked out the IMDB page of the film. This is a chance to see him in a very different role than Bubbles, embracing his more sinister side and without the transformative glasses. Brian Posehn is another face I've seen around a few shows and movies, but I actually know him best as the voice of Jim Kuback in the tragically short lived adult cartoon Mission Hill. Jim was always my favourite character.
The Fan Expo really was a great place to show this film. It had the right sort of Cosplaying people who understand this humour and the intrinsic reality that comes with exaggerated stories like this. There is truth in all of this absurdity and I think that it spends a good amount of time with the characters so that it's not just about LARPing, but about a strained friendship between three friends who are trying to validate themselves by getting a passing grade. Also there is a blossoming love between Lloyd and Cassandra (Tegan Moss), a tough women's self defence instructor who talks fast, but kicks butt. What would a movie without a love story after all? It is smart enough to have a story one can relate to and the costumes and sword fighting are just a funny backdrop to the story's heart. So, while Lloyd the Conqueror is not a fantastic film, it's got the basics down and it is definitely a funny movie and I would suggest you check it out, especially if you like nerd-humour. It's nice to see more good quality Canadian cinema getting made these days.
On a more personal note, Oswald was played by Scott Patey who was a friend of mine a few years back. We worked together at a theatre in Vancouver. It's great to see him getting bigger parts like this one. So, yeah, Scott, if you wind up reading this, keep up the good work.