MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directors: Katie Graham and Andrew Matthews
Film Pulse Score: 7/10
To be completely honest I know little to nothing about Dungeons & Dragons; all I know is there is a “game master” that controls the story and game-play which usually consists of (but not limited to) ogres, elves, wizards, golems and spells. With all that being said, Zero Charisma happens to be a generally humorous film populated with slightly-exaggerated yet nuanced characters and sure…it’s easy to sit back and poke fun, but all of the characters in Zero Charisma are relateable in one way or another.
Scott Weidemeier (Sam Eidson) is an adult male, in stature alone, while also being the game master of a role-playing game of his own design, something akin to Dungeons & Dragons; he’s also in talks with several publishers to have the game published…maybe, actually no, no he’s not. The viewer quickly learns that Scott is a highly-sensitive guy with a massive superiority complex, prone to outright lying about certain achievements and/or his never-ending list of expertise (medieval weaponry to name one). Scott not only controls his role-playing game, he also controls its’ players which happen to double as his friends and when one of them decides to quit the campaign in favor of his wife, Scott finds himself one person short for his epic tale of wizardry, goblins and their queens.
Their replacement comes in the form of a hipster named Miles (Garrett Graham) who currently thinks geek is chic, so much so his blog is called Geekchic.com. Miles is slightly like Scott, he used to play D&D in high school, but probably grew up at some point or at least figured out a way to turn his geek-centric life into a commercially-viable commodity, but it film tries to portray Miles as a hipster poser. Even though, he appears to have a far greater knowledge of all things geek compared to Scott. Miles as an answer to everything, even the lifelong argument of which is faster – the Millennium Falcon or the Starship Enterprise. He’s done the types of things that Scott has merely pretended to accomplish.
Thus, Miles becomes Scott’s nemesis.
Sam Eidson is perfectly suited to play the D&D playing, metal-loving, awkward man-child that is Scott Weidemeier. Although, the script and Sam’s performance brings a great deal of depth and complexity to the character (even though the script subsequently fails to crash in on that depth in the end), it quickly becomes apparent why Sam is the way he is when his mother, Barbara (Cyndi Williams), shows up to “care for” her post-stroke mother Wanda (Anne Gee Byrd). Quite simply, Barbara is a terrible, terrible mother perhaps one of the worst; which promptly gives the viewer an insight into the hurt Scott has been perpetually experiencing throughout his life and which Sam Eidson displays perfectly within his performance. But, what the script giveth, the script taketh away because all of that nuance vanishes when coupled with the wholly, out-of-place, just for laughs reveal of Scott’s masturbation problems.
Graham and Matthews have crafted a genuinely humorous non-coming of age tale with Zero Charisma, which is at once deeply seated within the realm of Dungeons & Dragons and Geekdom, but also contains enough real emotion and nuance to be universally relateable because, honestly, we are all geeks in some subject. It’s a light-hearted indie comedy featuring solid performances and a litany of references and in-jokes to satisfy all and you don’t need to know much about Dungeons & Dragons to fully enjoy Zero Charisma. Now, the only thing Graham and Matthews need to work on are endings.