By David Mayne
First off: Unicorn City is for nerds, plain and simple. While anyone can enjoy this movie, many jokes will fly right over most people’s noggins. In fact, I’ll go so far as to outline the following “prerequisites” necessary to get 100% out of a film like Unicorn City: you play D&D and LOVE it, you’ve dressed up like a Jedi and stood in line for 7+ hours to see a Star Wars movie, you play World of Warcraft (tri-weekly), you’ve considered naming a pet, possibly a child, “Warhammer”, and/or you still build blanket forts in your living room.
If you fall in to one of those categories, prepare to enjoy the unrepentant nerdom that is Unicron…err, UniCORN City. While it probably won’t get any early Oscar nods, there is something to be said about the few and far between flicks that actually go to the dork side and give nerds the world-round a film to be proud of. +5 to my movie reviewing prowess.
Meet Voss (McGinn), an out of work every-nerd who plays table top role-playing games and sleeps in a closet in his older brothers apartment. Disgusted with his current guild leader’s cheating and determined to get a job at a big gaming company, dubiously named “Warlocks of The Coast”, Voss sets out with fellow gamers, Clancy(Mattson) and Marsha (Hales), to create a live-action role-playing game in the mountains near his home. This gaming “utopia”, which Voss has coined Unicorn City, quickly gains popularity and soon attracts dozens of local gamers in search fantasy and nerdry. Throwing a wrench in this otherwise safe haven of role-playing is Voss’s former guild leader, Shadowhawk (Gries), who is determined to steal Unicorn City from Voss and appoint himself leader.
Unicorn City is funny, and any self-respecting gamer will get its many subtle nuances. McGinn often comes across as almost a Mallrats-era Jason Lee, minus the constant barrage of F-bombs circa Kevin Smith. This is in-part due to the PG rating of Unicorn City, something that initially raised a red-flag in my mind. “Funny” doesn’t necessarily have to rely on strong language to win over a crowd, case in point, Napoleon Dynamite. Director Bryan Lefler’s decision to keep it above the belt in Unicorn City is both inspiring and refreshing, proving that clean comedy can bring the laughs as much as anything else, and by the time it was over I was wholly satisfied.
While I liked both Mattson’s trusty side-kick role as Clancy, and Hale’s gorgeously underated Marsha, the true peanut butter to Voss’s jelly was John Gries’ character of Shadowhawk, lord and master of all things role-playing…at least in his mind. Some of you might remember Gries’ role as Uncle Rico in the aforementioned Napoleon Dynamite, the guy who could probably throw a football over ‘them mountains. Gries is funny without trying and his performance as Shadowhawk helped seal the deal, for me at least, that Unicorn City had covered all of its intended bases.
If you Amigos out there are in the mood for some seriously funny (albeit nerdy) humor, check out Unicorn City. Its even on Netflix streaming, so you don’t have to look far. With an honest and genuine tale of one man’s quest to find meaning among orcs, centaurs, and general jackassery, Unicorn City wins the day!