Dir. Chris Pyrnoski. USA. 2016. 83 mins
This bracingly savage satire sets its sights on one of the easier targets around: the fame-lusting wannabes who will take any available short cut to claim their fifteen minutes in the spotlight. Energetically profane and unapologetically offensive, this Titmouse, Inc. production revels in the ghastliness of modern pop culture and its preoccupation with celebrity for celebrity’s sake.
Nerdland is…grubby, dissolute and populated by scumbags and reprobates
Despite the marquee-friendly names of Paul Rudd and Patton Oswalt on the cast list, this is a film which is more likely to garner cult status than it is to achieve break-out theatrical success. And that’s probably just what director Chris Prynoski and writer Andrew Kevin Walker (Se7en) intended – the film sometimes has the feel of an in-joke for an in-crowd which is already well-versed in Prysnoski’s Titmouse, Inc. back catalogue (Metalocalypse, Motorcity, Turbo FAST).
That said, Nerdland’s message and nihilistic delivery could connect with a young (and young-at-heart) audience, both at festivals and possibly theatrically, which has reached the limit of its tolerance for the antics of reality TV stars and is seeking a Kardashi-antidote. It could be viewed as an animated companion piece to Idiocracy by Mike Judge, who incidentally contributes voice talent to this film.
Grubby, dissolute and populated by scumbags and reprobates, this a film which has a kinship with the sleazy countercultural odysseys of Ralph Bakshi in the early 1970s. The setting is an alternative Los Angeles (which is sponsored by the Fluffy Time Biscuit Co). Prynoski sets the scene with a barrage of colour popping billboards pushing ubiquitous twin products, sex and celebrity.
Roommates Elliot (Oswalt) and John (Rudd) live In a grim corner somewhere that the Californian sun never seems to reach. Elliot is an aspiring screenwriter with barely enough motivation to open the fridge to get another beer. And John is a somewhat precious failed actor who is forced to write copy for a cinema concession industry rag (there’s an acutely humiliating scene in which he talks popcorn flavours at a junket for new release Rock, Paper, Scissors, Murder).
When both friends lose their jobs on the same day and with their thirtieth birthdays approaching, they realise that despite their “assloads of talent”, Hollywood is just not buying what they are selling. After a brief interlude harassing a pair of pneumatic shop assistants who they mistakenly believe they have dated (“We didn’t have a double date. You just followed us to the movie theatre and sat behind us,”) John and Elliot set out to achieve celebrity, or at least notoriety.
Given that this is a prurient world in which even the New York Times runs headlines like “Pervert rapes himself” and in which the internet has democratised access to an increasingly undiscerning audience, the quest shouldn’t be too difficult. However John and Elliot’s somewhat episodic mission fails at every turn. Ironically, just when they finally stumble into the public eye, their hunger for exposure jeopardises their chance of fame forever.
Although the gags hit home throughout – as they should, with such a broad target – the script loses focus slightly in the final twenty minutes. A driving electronic score by Night Club counters this problem with regular injections of adrenalised energy.
Directors: Chris Prynoski
Production company: Titmouse
International sales: United Talent Agency
Producer: Gavin Polone, Andrew Kevin Walker
Screenplay: Andrew Kevin Walker
Editors: Mark Brooks, Barry J. Kelly
Music: Night Club
Cast: Paul Rudd, Patton Oswalt, Hannibal Buress, Riki Lindhome, Kate Micucci, Mike Judge, Reid Scott