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January 6, 2017

Do you like classic Adult Swim animated shows like Metalocalypse and Superjail!? Well, do I have the movie for you! Adult Swim-regular production company Titmouse, Inc. picked up 8MM screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker’s pitch for Nerdland, and the resulting movie is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from there.

Which is to say, if you’re in or just out of college — or maybe a high schooler up past your bedtime — it’s going to seem pretty edgy and subversive and maybe even a great way to stick it to The Man in some vague, unspecified way. Much older than that and you’re more and more likely to respond with an indifferent meh, and maybe fond memories of a time when you were young and thought anyone cared about this sort of thing. Maybe Phyllis Schlafly’s kid or the Family Research Council does.

Nerdland stars Paul Rudd and Patton Oswalt as John and Elliot, a struggling actor and screenwriter, respectively, trying to make names for themselves in Hollywood. On the verge of turning 30, they panic, and decide they need to get some sort of flash-in-the-pan notoriety today if not sooner. And yes, we get the joke that Rudd and Oswalt are both 47, and the joke that these guys have failed to get any traction at least as much because they’re both terrible as because Hollywood is a superficial, soulless meat-grinder. Which again, nobody is disputing, nor have they the last few hundred times a Hollywood production has made the exact same point or joke.

The movie’s running time carves up nicely into Adult Swim-friendly eleven-minute segments — if you miss the one-night-only theatrical event, you can probably look forward to seeing it endlessly in syndication — featuring one episode or another of the pair’s ill-advised attempts at infamy. In one, they try giving away money to a homeless man (Mike Judge). In another, they try cyber-vandalizing a rich guy (Paul Scheer). And there’s the arc where they decide to turn themselves into hardened serial killers by watching a supercut of gory, violent movie clips. Because there is totally a still-relevant conspiracy to ban violent content in movies or television outside of the minds of 15-25-year-old boys.

Along the way there’s a cluster of recurring characters, like The King (Hannibal Buress), who runs the nerd-oriented Kollectables Kingdom, or Sally and Linda (Garfunkel & Oates members Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome), who John and Elliot most directly want to impress. I wouldn’t be surprised if Titmouse tries to spin this out into a longer series, in which case they’ll probably become regular characters, if only because we see them slightly more than the one- or two-offs who we see most of the time. It feels a little too easy, given the medium, to call them “two-dimensional”, but there you have it.

But that’s par for the course. Sure, the occasional series that run on Adult Swim manages to mutate into a weird sort of brilliance over the course of its run, but that seems a ways down the line, if Nerdland will ever get there at all. For now it’s the same tepidly “outrageous” post-adolescent tantrum with occasional self-satisfied moments of anti-humor thrown into the mix for “depth”. It’s fine if you’re into that sort of thing, but it wears thin pretty quickly.

Worth It: no.
Bechdel-Wallace Test: an edge case, but it might pass.

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