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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Max Reload and the Nether Blasters is a retro gamer's fantasy. Parents may find it fun to watch with teens, as it connects the early days of video games (ColecoVision!) to sophisticated modern multiplayer adventures. The teen characters' dialogue has lots of profanity. It's mostly on the mild side, but it also feels like "s--t" is used in every sentence. Potty humor goes along with the potty mouths, but the rest of the iffy content is limited. The cautionary tale of a successful '80s gaming icon includes mention of his cocaine use and womanizing, and another character guzzles hard liquor; all of this is positioned as negative behavior. Keeping with the retro vibe, the movie was shot on video, the special effects are cheesy, and any violence -- like zombie-type creatures being hit by a car or video game blasters disintegrating people -- is clearly fake and temporary. It's pure camp, riffing off of the nonsensical fun of '80s kids' adventure movies, with era icons Kevin Smith, Martin Kove, and Wil Wheaton in the cast. Make sure to watch through the credits!
What's the story?
In MAX RELOAD AND THE NETHER BLASTERS, Max Jenkins (Tom Plumley) and his best buds Liz (Hassie Harrison) and Reggie (Joey Morgan) may not have a career path, but they do have a fantastic work-play balance at Fallout Games. When the legendary lost installment of the Nether Game series appears on the counter during Max's shift, he decides to make a name for himself in the gamer world by releasing it to the public. When he unknowingly unleashes an embedded virus that infects humans, Max and his friends must locate the game's reclusive creators to stop the virus before it's "game over" for the world.
Is it any good?
This movie is like a grilled cheese sandwich with a smiley face seared into it: It's not fancy, but it's a delicious experience filled with nostalgia and topped with fun embellishments. And cheese is the right word here: Max Reload and the Nether Blasters has some pretty low-level production qualities -- but that's the whole idea. Low-budget is a selling point here, with Kevin Smith's supporting role as the exclamation point. While the storyline is pretty convoluted, it boils down to the fact that some teens are avoiding making a decision about what to do with their lives by working and playing at a video game store. They obsess about gaming; it's how they communicate. But by following their passion of video games, they realize the extent of their capabilities and see that they're capable of anything when they work together as a team. Of course, this leads to a career path.
The cast has notable standouts. The big screen needs more of Harrison, who volleys comic lines like a tennis pro. Mirroring the standard trappings of an '80s movie, her character, Liz, is the lone female and -- of course -- serves as a love interest. But Harrison brings more dimension to Liz than how she was written. Greg Grunberg is spot-on as '80s burnout Eugene Wylder, elevating the entire production. And many former '80s kids will get a kick out of seeing Martin Kove as "Gramps," a vet who fills water guns with alcohol and has a convivial relationship with his grandson. It seems safe to say that the target audience for this film is those adults who grew up with things like ColecoVision, Atari, and Commodore 64s and now have children who are teens/young adults themselves. The movie isn't good by any means, but it racks up a lot of happiness points if your personal nostalgia aligns with the film's.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the "party hearty" '80s are portrayed in the movie. Do you think substance use and womanizing are glamorized?
How does Max Reload and the Nether Blasters compare to other movies about gamers? Did you notice any stereotypes? Counter-stereotypes?
How is the power of teamwork demonstrated?
Why do you think films and TV shows rely on nostalgia as a storytelling device?
- In theaters: August 7, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: August 7, 2020
- Cast: Hassie Harrison, Kevin Smith, Tom Plumley
- Directors: Scott Conditt, Jeremy Tremp
- Studio: CineForge Media
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship
- Character strengths: Teamwork
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: September 11, 2020
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