You know what I love about all these crowd sourced things these days? Occasionally something people fund gets made on time and turns out good. Amanda Palmer did an incredible job of that with her Theatre Is Evil Kickstarter. Earlier this year world famous internet reviewer of tat Stuart Ashen (or is that Ashens?) launched an Indiegogo project to fund the production of an Ashens movie. Yes, at some point, whilst hunched over the sofa possibly reviewing some Poundland wrestling figures, Stuart Ashen thought to himself “I could make a film of this you know”. Thankfully, at some point after this revelation, Ashens realised it would probably be better to make an actual film than a 2 hour review. And so here it is. Ashens and the Quest for the GameChild, the feature length adventure of one Stuart Ashen searching for the single greatest piece of tat in the world. Click the link for my review, and the full film itself. Cos it’s on the YouTubes!!!
I should probably be clear here, I did not back this on Indiegogo. I’ve backed many projects on Kickstarter, including the new Spike Lee film and the previously mentioned Amanda Palmer album (best $25 I’ve ever spent. Or whatever that is in pounds) but I don’t have an Indiegogo account and had 2 Kickstarter things due to charge me at the same time. So I gave Ashens a miss. Which I feel like a jerk for because I’ve been a fan of his for some time. Now after seeing The Proxy, a short-ish film made on YouTube channel The Multiverse and also starring Ashens, I figured I knew what sort of level of production to expect. Decent but distinctly Youtube/Channel 4 late night TV in the early 2000s. I was not expecting a very near to cinema quality production. That’s what we got here. Director Riyad Barmania and Director of Photography Rob Wilton have done an exemplary job of making the most out of the low budget they have. They shoot conservatively and use some well put together lighting to make sure the shots have enough texture to never look flat, as many lower budget productions can. Hats off to those guys.
The plot of Ashens and the Quest for the GameChild… which is a long title and, as you may know, I dislike long titles due to my refusal to use acronyms… is actually neatly summed up in its title. Ashens (Simon Pegg) is searching for the most elusive piece of tat he can in the form of a GameChild. The GameChild, for those that have been living under a rock… or just living… is a knock off of the original Gameboy from 1989 that, so the Ashens lore goes, would burn the retinas of children and go on to be recalled. Here the GameChild is the one collectable that Ashens has never been able to claim, having lost out on getting one to his arch nemesis, Nemesis (Chris Kendall), in the early 90s. Now he has, somewhat unwillingly, teamed up with Chef Excellence himself (The not a puppet and occasional Ashens video guest Dan Tomlinson) in order to go on a mission… totally not a quest, to find the last remaining GameChild. Naturally this involves many cameos, in jokes and film references to accompany the journey.
The film’s comedy mostly relies on that brand of geeky humour that’s so prevalent these days, but, it does so in a way that’s inclusive. Many will wonder who the guy is that they visit in an asylum (it’s youtuber Guru Larry) but the cameos are kept clear enough that you only need to understand they type of character they represent rather than who they actually are. Compare this to the similar Nostalgia Critic film series and the way it relies heavily on you knowing who each of the guests are and you’ll understand how Quest for the GameChild is a cut above. Its script isn’t going to blow you away with depth, and it feels a little lacking in places, but it is an honest to goodness story that concentrates on telling that story rather than trying to get you to laugh because you recognise that guy from a YouTube channel you watch. There’s a handful of jokes that fall flat but there are a number of genuine belly laughs to be had. A cameo from Warwick Davis and a plan that maybe shouldn’t have been carried out exactly to that plan provide two of the biggest laughs.
Performance wise Dan Tomlinson steals the show here. He has an insane childlike enthusiasm for the part. He’s essentially playing a cartoon of a man, and he approaches the role as such. Stuart is as deadpan as you’d expect, although could maybe do with a few lessons in emoting beyond agitation. That said, he’s got charm and character that is definitely needed in this sort of comedy. There’s a few characters that maybe get sidelined a little too much, such as Richard (Richard Sandling) and Marion (Kelly Gilbert) who both display qualities of being entertaining characters that, unfortunately, get left on the sidelines.
About 20 minutes onto the Ashens film I realised I was watching something that was actually really quite good… maybe even a film that displays excellence. I went in expecting something nerdy and cheap looking. Instead I got something nerdy that looked like an honest to goodness real life film. It actually marks an interesting point in cinema. The guys at The Multiverse can make their money from Youtube views from this film, which could be a new revenue stream for small independent film. What if other low budget film makers offered their films for free on Youtube and then provided you with links to buy a download you can take anywhere or a physical copy. Would you buy one after watching the film? Sure the revenue wouldn’t be huge, but if you’re only making a small film and you can get enough viewers surely it’s viable. Ashens and the Quest for the GameChild is a damn fine 88 minutes of entertainment and it’s out there for you to see for free. In fact, I’m linking it directly below this review! Now watch it!