11 December 2011 | vchimpanzee
Enjoyable, teaches moral lessons
Zach Taylor enjoys video games and wants to make designing them is career. Even before getting into college, he has designed an app that allows a person to diagnose a car problem using a smart phone.
Zach's father has a garage which is in financial trouble. Zach knows this because he does the books. Still, he has gotten into a college identified only as "D.I.G.D." which has a top video game design program, and he must leave his father to solve his own problems. His mother died several years earlier, but Zach's father has many friends. And he's a good man: his financial troubles stem from his willingness to help people who can't pay.
Zach's experience at D.I.G.D. starts off negatively: after falling asleep in his car, in a place he's not supposed to have parked, he spills coffee on Dr. Lambert. She is in charge of the rigorous first semester group project which over half the students in the video game program fail each year. Since he can't get a dorm room, Dr. Lambert is also his landlady and neighbor, in an old factory-type building on Lincoln Alley. Zach's roommates and project partners are Phillip and Donald, who have known each other pretty much all their lives and get along like brothers. Donald is the tough brother, while Phillip is more brainy.
There are rules for the project. Dr. Lambert (who is nicer than she sounds) will not allow more than two unexcused absences from her class. And if one person's performance in the group receives a failing grade, the entire group fails. The group can deal with a member who isn't contributing by kicking him or her out, thereby assuring they won't be brought down as well. And because the project is so tough, students working on a project may not accept outside consulting work.
Sara is a leader, something Zach and his partners are not (Donald is an artist, and Phillip a coder). Knowing this, Zach wants her to join his group, though at first she wants to stay in the group she has already joined. It is possible to change groups, and she does.
Dr. Marcus Benton is a respected author of books on video games and appears to be quite wealthy, based on his house. He also appears to teach at D.I.G.D., though the only professors we see teaching a class are Dr. Lambert, Dr. Wilkes (a hippie type who wanted to be a rock star), and an Asian-looking man who puts everyone to sleep.
Dr. Benton wants Andy, who has a spoiled rich kid attitude and perfect hair, to make sure Zach flunks out. No, he has nothing against Zach. But he knows Zach is so brilliant that Dr. Benton can impress potential investors by having Zach work on his latest project. Zach can make money, which his father desperately needs to save the garage and his home. But anyone in Zach's situation would have to be crazy to try to take on so much. And it is against the rules.
Can Zach do it all? Or will he bring down himself and his group? Or will he just bring down himself? Or will his group succeed?
This is a pretty good movie. I don't recall any standout actors other than the one playing Zach's father, but everyone does a good enough job. The writers can be given credit for not making Andy a Disney-style stereotype villain, even though it appeared at first that's just how he would be.
There is some comedy, but this is not a comedy all the time. That's fine.
The video game art and design is pretty amazing. And the various games are funny.
The movie's biggest strength is its teachings about moral values and responsibility.
There is nothing offensive here. The movie received a TV-G rating. Dr. Lambert is living with the dean of students and raising a child they had together, but the fact they don't seem to be married isn't necessarily a problem.
Being about college students, this movie naturally has very little music. Some misguided people in the target age group may use the term music to refer to a lot of what I heard, but most of the music is toward the end when Christmas is celebrated. Very nice, very traditional.
Being a Wal-Mart/P&G family movie, this does have some product placement--a reusable Wal-Mart bag and Kinect games.
It's worth seeing.