Max Cloud

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Max Cloud Movie Poster Image
Violence, some language in fun sci-fi action comedy.
  • NR
  • 2021
  • 88 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Female characters are strong and assertive decision makers, and acknowledge how in video games centered on male heroes, this is rarely, if ever, the case.

Positive Role Models

Female gamers are just as skilled, if not better, than their male counterparts. Movie, in part, parodies "alpha male" heroes in video games. Diverse characters.

Violence

While acted out in movements as if in a video game, the real-life video game violence features a head shot off of a bad guy, a stabbing in the mouth, slicing bad guys with a long knife (with digitized blood), martial arts violence. Makes frequent allusions to the violence in video games from the late 1980s/early 1990s.

Sex

Some video game talk as innuendo, referencing "a joystick" and "the next level." When a teenage girl becomes trapped in a video game, she inhabits the body of a male character, and is shown realizing that she has a penis, and adjusts her crotch area.

Language

Regular use of profanity, including: "s--t," "goddamn," "damn," "hell," "ass," "douchebag." Middle finger. Joke referencing "cajones."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Max Cloud is a 2020 sci-fi action comedy in which a teen gamer in 1990 gets trapped inside a 16-bit video game, and must rely on her best friend to get her out. Expect some action movie violence -- as the lead character is trapped in a real-life representation of the video game, characters engage in martial arts violence, one of the bad guys is stabbed in the mouth, another bad guy's head is blown off by a space blaster, and in a scene where bad guys are sliced up, digitized blood spurts out of their bodies. Some profanity, including "s--t," "ass," "damn," and "cajones." When the lead character transports into the video game, she becomes one of the male characters of the game, and she's shown adjusting her crotch as she realizes that she now has a penis. Brief sexual innuendo in two instances. In terms of positives, the female characters more than hold their own with the boys -- in real-life and in the video game -- and the movie finds humor in parodying and mocking the traditional gender roles assigned in video games and in media as a whole.

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What's the story?

In MAX CLOUD, Sarah is a teenager in 1990 Brooklyn obsessed with video games, and the side-scroller 16-bit game Max Cloud in particular. After her father grounds her and tells her she cannot play any video games for the entire weekend, she wishes that she could play video games forever. A male witch from the game hears this, grants her wish, and to her surprise and dismay, Sarah has been transported into Max Cloud. To make matters worse, she's inhabiting the body of Jake the Cook, the least effective avatar in the game. She comes face-to-face with Max Cloud (Scott Adkins), the captain and alpha leader of his spaceship that has just crashed on the prison planet Heinous. Meanwhile, in the real world, Sarah's best friend Cowboy has stopped by to hang out, and soon learns that not only is Sarah in the video game, but also it's up to him to play as her/Jake, and ensure that she doesn't lose the one life she has left. While Cowboy works the controller, Sarah/Jake is joined in the fight against the bad guys by Rexy, the game's British heroine, and Brock Donnelley (Tommy Flanagan), a bounty hunter who may or may not be on their side. Together, they must find a way to stop Revengor and Shee (Lashana Lynch) and their many minions, and Cowboy must find a way to help Sarah get out of the video game and back to the real world. 

Is it any good?

Equal parts nostalgia and video game humor, Max Cloud is a fun and often silly sci-fi action comedy. Set in 1990, the movie conveys an accurate representation of that era of sidebraids and Kid-n-Play hairstyles that so dominated that almost-forgotten gray area of popular culture between the day-glo 80s and the grunge-flanneled 90s. It also finds all the humor to be mined out of side-scrolling video games from that era. For instance, it's hard not to laugh at a scene in which the lead character, stuck as an avatar in her favorite video game, is running in place against a load-bearing beam while her best friend in the real world leaves his shoe on the controller while he takes a quick bathroom break. As the titular alpha male lead character in the video game, Scott Adkins hilariously delivers over-the-top "macho" dialogue before accurately parodying the fighting movements of 16-bit martial arts and laser gun brawls. 

While entertaining, the premise doesn't quite sustain an entire movie. There's a space in the movie, before an expected Mortal Kombat style mano y mano deathmatch, in which the action comes across more like lower budget sci-fi, and also includes a flashback scene of Max Cloud's origin story that doesn't quite work. There's a feeling of the movie barely making it to the finish line, once the "press A, B, B, A, right, left, down, up" controller references are exhausted. It's not a masterpiece, but there's enough good -- and enough gender, race, and age diversity to convey that not all gamers are dudes of a certain age, and that not all heroes have to be alpha males -- to make it an enjoyable watch. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about modern movies set in the past. How did this movie show that it was set in the year 1990? How do other movies set in the past try to realistically recreate how things used to be? 

  • How did the movie parody and celebrate 16-bit video games? 

  • How did the lead female characters show themselves to be just as capable, if not more so, than their male counterparts? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love science fiction

Themes & Topics

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