Max Reload And The Nether Blasters

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Max Reload And The Nether Blasters
"An undemanding, thoroughly entertaining romp."

It has taken mainstream society more than a generation to grasp the idea that computer gaming is a social phenomenon and a legitimately satisfying part of many people's lives. With the revamped Jumanji series leading the way, an increasing number of films have been tapping into this, often with a distinctive Eighties vibe that harks back to the brief period when they were cool before. Thanks to the involvement of genre stars including Kevin Smith, Lin Shaye and Will Wheaton, this one has secured a fairly high profile release that will bring hope to all the directors out there making small scale indie gaming films, and it has enough going on to thrill gaming fans.

Max Jenkins (Tom Plumley), known to his friends as Max Reload, is a dedicated gaming nerd who works in a gaming store with best friends Liz (Hassie Harrison) and Reggie (Joey Morgan), who occasionally look up to speak to customers when not wholly absorbed in their favourite fantasy adventure. This is something they've been stuck on for a while, repeatedly dying in the same place, with the others complaining that Max is too impulsive and not a team player. Just the kind of guy destined to be named as a Chosen One? Maybe so - given that in this film, that honour is bestowed by the bad guy.

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With a simple but well structured plot that gives each member of the gang an opportunity to show off their skills, this an undemanding, thoroughly entertaining romp. Though aimed at a teenage audience, there are plenty of references to amuse older viewers and the older characters are just as well drawn, with a particularly nice turn from Shaye as the devoted mother of an ageing nerd who has never moved out. The jokes are cheesy and occasionally there's an unfortunate bit of kicking down, though this seems to stem not so much from spite as a failure to think things through - there's no mean-spiritedness at any point. Harrison and Shaye's characters aside, women don't get much of a look in, but toxic male traits are called out nonetheless.

Despite the focus on Max, this is really an ensemble piece and the cast have good chemistry. Stick around at the end for outtakes which suggest this was just as much the case offscreen. There is a bit of luvvieness to it and how well you deal with this will probably depend on just how many movie quotes you can process in an hour and a half without getting distracted from the story. The effects are cheap and cheerful but work because of the way they gel with gaming tradition - from glowing eyes to ray guns. Everything fits so neatly with that formula that it's not really a spoiler to note that the ultimate showdown takes place within the gaming world itself.

On the one hand it's light entertainment; on the other, it's a family sized meal of a movie with lashings of extra cheese. Dig in.

Reviewed on: 10 Aug 2020
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Max Reload And The Nether Blasters packshot
A small town video game store clerk must go from zero to hero after accidentally unleashing the forces of evil from a cursed Colecovision game.

Director: Scott Conditt, Jeremy Tremp

Writer: Scott Conditt

Starring: Tom Plumley, Kevin Smith, Wil Wheaton, Lin Shaye, Martin Cove

Year: 2020

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: US

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