Directed by Michael Peterson
Written by Michael Peterson and Andrew Herman
Society has an outrageous double standard. If you like to play Dungeons and Dragons and watch sc-fi fantasy movies, you’re a bit of a dork, but if you love to watch NFL football and take part in fantasy sports (read: fantasy sports), then you’re a real hard nut. If you get dressed up in cosplay or costumes of your favourite fictional character and LARP (live action role play) for a lark, you’re a delusional git who needs to snap back to reality, but if you’re a sport-jersey-wearing, pick-up-football-playing, face-painting fanatic who refers to his or her favourite team with the word ‘we’, and who throws a tantrum every time they think they’ve lost unjustifiably (or just plum lost), as if they were personally wronged, then by Jove, you’re just a healthy, productive member of society, and you’re probably not a virgin. Sarcasm is heavily implied.
This entire preamble brings us to Lloyd the Conqueror, a movie that acknowledges these fabricated stereotypes and embraces them nonetheless. The story follows Lloyd (Evan Williams) and his two friends Patrick (Jesse Reid) and Oswald (Scott Patey), three slacker community college students in Calgary. After an embarrassingly poor presentation on Beowulf, the trio face the prospect of lower-than-C averages and loss of academic scholarship. They plead with their diabolical teacher Derek (Mike Smith) for a redo, but he gives them another option instead: join his LARPing league, so he can continue to be the despot champion, and they will pass the course with a C average, and if they somehow beat him, they pass with A’s. So, with the help of level-80 white wizard/comic book storeowner Andy (Brian Posehn) and feisty women’s self-defense teacher Cassandra (Tegan Moss), Lloyd and his friends take on the challenge for girls, glory and grades.
Although we’re not supposed to compare the movie’s epic events to a certain crude space opera, the story is basically Star Wars with foam light sabers. Lloyd is Luke Skywalker, Patrick is probably Han Solo (at least, he tries to be), Oswald is C-3PO and Chewbacca rolled into one, Cassandra is basically Princess Leia, Andy is Obi-Wan Kenobi, Derek is a Sith Lord (which is why he looks Toronto mayor Rob Ford), and there’s a Darth Vader-type character introduced later in the movie. The story is simple and rudimentary enough to parallel the paltry, low-budget sensibility of both the movie and LARPing, and is actually quite amusing if you’re willing to buy into it.
However, the movie does suffer from a few things. Dialogue delivery is often stilted and incredibly awkward, the comedic timing is off quite a bit, jokes sort of fall by the wayside, and the acting suffers from too much zeal, with certain players trying too hard to fit into one word character archetypes (i.e. awkward, cocksure, spirited); sort of like character avatars. However, there are some jokes that work incredibly well, the action set pieces are endearingly absurd, and the story overall has commendable heart. It may not convince you of the validity of LARP, but Lloyd the Conqueror is sporadically fun and games, harmless, and a million times better than any movie about pick-up football can ever aspire to be.
– Justin Li
The 7th annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival runs from October 18-26. For a complete schedule and ticket information, please visit the offical website.