The rabid response to Sausage Party’s trailer and first screening at South By Southwest proves that there is a desire for raunchy, adult-themed animated feature films. Nerdland’s own trailer suggested that it might rival Sausage Party in this field. Especially since it features the undeniably talented pairing of Paul Rudd and Patton Oswalt in its leading roles. Unfortunately it doesn’t deliver the consistent, hearty laughs that you’d expect. Instead, it plays out like a lame and crude joke that you can’t wait to come to an end.
Which is especially disappointing considering the esteemed talent that brought the film to life both on and off screen. As the writer of Se7en and Sleepy Hollow, Andrew Kevin Walker has proven that he has a unique but beguiling path into the morbid and bleak, while director Chris Prynoski’s past as the creator of Motorcity and director of Metalocalypse and Happy Monster Band suggested that theirs should be a perfect marriage of creative talent.
They also cast a wealth of hilarious vocal performers too, with Paul Rudd and Patton Oswalt taking the lead roles of John and Elliot, a want-to-be actor and screenwriter, respectively, that both decide the need to reach fame or even infamy at any cost before they’re 30.
As well as having the Ant-Man and Ratatouille actors leading the way, Nerdland is also boosted by turns from Hannibal Buress (Broad City), Mike Judge (Beavis And Butt-Head), Kate Micucci (Garfunkel And Oates), Reid Scott (Veep), and Paul Scheer (The League).
But even this esteemed line-up of comedians are unable to provide Nerdland with a spark of originality or a tangible comedic energy. While its over-arcing plot of John and Elliot seeking fame in any way shape or style is solid enough, Nerdland dovetails it into sequences that feel like they’re more suited to television.
We see our useless protagonists trying to assist, then insulting, and ultimately being attacked by a homeless person; Elliot provoking and then being beaten by police, which John fails to capture on camera as intended; as well as the pair being rejected, embarrassed, and dismissed by women, A-list actors, comic-book store owners, and police officers. Rather than unfolding like a cohesive story, most of these scenes come across more as vignettes, which Nerdland repeatedly has to start and stop to incorporate, while its generic attempt at social commentary is annoying and grating rather than prescient
It’s not all bad though. Titmouse, Inc., who have made their first foray into feature film animation with Nerdland, create a crude, gritty, but still vivacious world that suits the characters and the plot. While there are one or two sequences that really flourish, especially in the second act when John and Elliot decide to become serial killers and pick, before then considering to murder, their kind, elderly neighbor.
But these moments are seldom, as Nerdland is caught between being too long for a sitcom episode and not long enough for a film, which ultimately renders it pointless.