Scalding Hot Takes: Game Over, Man
Well that was disappointing.
I suppose it was not a promising sign that I first learned of Game Over, Man’s existence when one-star reviews for it started appearing on my friend’s Facebook walls. This surprised me on multiple levels. I was surprised that the dude-bros behind Workaholics, a show I think is very funny, had made a Pineapple Express-style stoner action comedy for Netflix in the Die Hard mold called Game Over, Man. I was even more surprised that it was apparently not just a disappointment but outright terrible.
My knee-jerk reaction was that the movie might have its flaws, but that critics were probably being overly harsh, critical, even, because the movie was the kind of raunchy fare critics have historically viewed with disdain, even if it’s as hilarious and innovative as Freddy Got Fingered. That’s probably true on some level, but the movie’s negative reviews are more likely attributable to Game Over, Man being fucking abysmal.
Game Over, Man is so bad it makes Workaholics seem worse in retrospect, if only because Adam DeVine, Anders Holm and Blake Anderson’s cinematic vehicle feels disconcertingly like a glorified episode of Workaholics only brutally unfunny, endless, populated by even more abrasive, unlikable characters and seemingly eight hours long instead of an unconscionable 101 minutes.
Game Over, Man casts DeVine, Holm and Anderson as, respectively, Alexxx, Darren and Joel “Baby Dunc”, respectively. Alexxx is the self-styled idea man of the trio, an exuberant goober who peppers his speech with 1990s-era hip hop slang like “jiggy.” I’m not sure anyone has laughed at a clueless white guy coopting hip hop culture since Clinton was in office, but that doesn’t keep Game Over, Man from lovingly including it in its oversized roster of hack comic conceits.
Speaking of comic conceits, Darren is a lazy stoner only instead of imbibing God’s sweet, sweet leaf, marijuana (the smoking of which, sadly, will not make Game Over, Man more entertaining, or even bearable, or so I would imagine) he’s sloppy out of his mind on Salvia. As with so much of Game Over, Man, there’s a germ of a good idea in the idea of a dopey stoner being thrust unexpectedly into a life or death crisis, who must then save themselves and others despite their reflexes being rendered hopelessly fuzzy by the drugs they’re constantly using.
That conceit played a whole lot better in Pineapple Express, which was co-written and produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who produced Game Over, Man as well. In Game Over, Man, Darren’s Salvia addiction just makes him sloppier and less engaging and more ineffectual, but not in an interesting or amusing way. Game Over, Man seems to have chosen Salvia partially for the novelty but also because Salvia is much less popular and understood than marijuana, which gives the filmmakers a lot of leverage in terms of making Darren exactly how out of it or sharp he needs to be for any given scene.
Joel is the quiet, introspective brains of the operation. He looks and acts like Jason Mewes on powerful tranquilizers. That is until the character comes out of the closet, at which point he begins behaving like a glib caricature of an effeminate, lustful homosexual.
Speaking once again of its outsized roster of hack comic conceits, Game Over, Man derives a lot of would-be humor out of the idea of heterosexual men being unexpectedly confronted with traditionally homosexual sex acts and experiencing discomfort and embarrassment ostensibly shared by the (ostensibly straight) audience. As a humiliation, for example, a rich, arrogant Instagram celebrity/billionaire is forced to insert his tongue in an obese man’s rectum in a scenario that recalls a famous episode of Black Mirror and is every bit as gut-busting.
The punchline to this execrable and brutally unfunny scene is that the man with his tongue in the overweight man’s posterior, being a drugged-out hedonist, has done this plenty of times before, sometimes with men, but the movie is so unrelentingly sophomoric in its, “Ew, gross! Sex!” attitude that it’s difficult, if not impossible to give it credit for embracing gender fluidity.
On a similar note, two of the henchmen in Game Over, Man are in a loving, committed same-sex relationship. In a better, smarter, less insulting and terrible movie, that might qualify as a clever subversion of macho action movie tropess. Game Over, Man is not that better, smarter, less insulting movie, however. So this DOA attempted comedy can’t seem to stop giggling to itself over how clever it is to have muscle-bound, gun-toting heavies do sex stuff with each other, sometimes within eyeshot of our embarrassed heroes.
In a premise that’s essentially “Die Hard with unlimited dick jokes”, the Workaholics stars play a trio of bumbling, incompetent hotel housekeepers whose life of cleaning the ejaculate-encrusted used condoms of strangers is dramatically and violently interrupted when their hotel is taken over by an aggregation of multi-ethnic, sneering bad guys led by Conrad (Neal McDonough).
The gun-toting heavies have designs on the fortune of Bae Awadi, a billionaire, Instagram star and Warholian celebrity whom Utkarsh Ambudkar, who originated the role of Aaron Burr in Hamilton, plays as a cross between Kanye West at his most narcissistic and obnoxious and any number of insufferable social media “celebrities.”
Awadi is supposed to be obnoxious, an overly indulged man-child obsessed with instant gratification no matter the cost. You know who else is obnoxious in Game Over, Man? Literally every single fucking other character, particularly our heroes. Like a disconcerting number of films I’ve seen as of late, particularly the two films Clint Eastwood made featuring the character of Clyde the Orangutan, Game Over, Man does not pass the “Would I care if the lead character was shot in the face and instantly killed?” test.
I honestly can state that I would not give a mad-ass fuck if every single character in Game Over, Man died in a gruesome and excruciating fashion. Sure enough, many, if not most of the supporting characters here die deaths that are not just violent and sudden but deaths that are so grotesquely over-the-top that they resemble the child-corrupting “Fatalities” of Mortal Kombat than they do conventional deaths.
This is almost assuredly intentional. Our trio of unlikable morons are trying to sell a video game idea to Bae Awadi and the film internalizes the video game aesthetic as opposed to commenting upon it. As with Mortal Kombat, the violence here would be shocking and even startling if there wasn’t so goddamn much of it that you quickly become de-sensitized to even the most cartoonishly over the top bloodshed.
Because none of the characters in Game Over, Man are developed beyond one-dimensional video game or cartoon characters, their deaths have about as much dramatic heft as the temporary demise of a Double Dragon character.
This includes the violent deaths of a smattering of celebrities playing themselves as partiers turned hostages after a big crazy celebrity soiree devolves into a deeply unfunny bloodbath. We’re supposed to experience that cheap shiver of recognition that comes with seeing something familiar being referenced in a cheeky fashion, but seeing Joel McHale, Steve-O, Donald Faison and Mark Cuban play themselves just made me feel bad for everyone involved.
Game Over, Man wants to be Zoolander, an instant cult romp that impishly puts dim-witted goofballs in a comically incongruous action-thriller context. Instead, the meaningless celebrity cameos suggest Zoolander: Number Two, where the filmmakers were so overjoyed to get every famous person in the world to degrade themselves with cameos that they didn’t feel the need to bother with jokes. In Game Over, Man, the celebs don’t have to do or say anything funny. They just have to show up.
The exception is Shaggy, who provides the movie’s biggest, and also possibly only, laugh when one of the bad guys sadistically decides to take Shaggy along on a nostalgic journey by forcing him to sing “It Wasn’t Me” a cappella at gun-point, over his strong objections. As a writerly principle, I think it’s important to single out moments of wonder and magic in the midst of vast deserts of dross so I will happily concede that this one gag made me laugh. The others? Not so much.
As I’ve written before, funny excuses and justifies just about everything. Unfunny excuses absolutely nothing. Though I chuckled a few times, Game Over, Man is powerfully, disconcertingly unfunny, a movie whose hit to miss ratio is shockingly off, particularly considering how low the movie is willing to go for laughs. Cheap, cheap laughs that never come to fruition.
Game Over, Man’s only real conceit is to go too far. It deliberately and obnoxiously goes too far with violence. It deliberately and obnoxiously goes too far with the dick jokes and stomach-churning raunch. It deliberately and obnoxiously goes too far with the glib misanthropy and laissez faire attitude towards the violent waste of human life. It goes too far with stereotyping and gay panic gags and lazy rando celebrity cameos.
If is, if nothing else a film of conviction. It makes a lot of strong, bold choices. Unfortunately, with the exception of Shaggy’s cameo, all of those choices are wrong, and terrible, and lead to a film that’s not just unfunny and disappointing but genuinely awful and kind of hateful.
Workaholics was about funny assholes. Game Over, Man, however, is just about assholes.
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