While the pastime of LARPing (or Live Action Role Playing, for the uninitiated) has become fodder for several high profile comedies already, sharp writing and winning performances make the Calgary made slacker epic Lloyd the Conqueror tons of fun as a bunch of “normal” acting misfits are thrust into a world of orcs, mages, wizards, foam swords, and multi-sided dice rolls with highly amusing and heartfelt consequences.
A trio of slackers led by the titular and actually somewhat perceptive Lloyd (Evan Williams) bomb out of an important English assignment on the grounds of not really giving a shit, only to be approached by their douchy English teacher (Trailer Park Boys’ Mike Smith) with “an infernal accord.” An evil, bully of a leader in a local LARPing league, their professor also goes by the appropriately nickname Derek The Unholy. He can’t win a formal title since he’s cheated, connived, and beaten every other team into submission. In exchange for having someone to wail on, Derek will preserve the C average of our heroes, but after seeing first hand just how much of jerk he really is, they stop goofing around and start playing for keeps with the help of a former champion and mentor (Brian Posehn) and a high strung karate instructor/love interest (Tegan Moss).
Director Michael Peterson and co-writer Andrew Herman never look down upon the sometimes crude and laughable minutiae of role playing, and they instead let the ridiculous shine through as charms of these ragtag weekend warriors. The comedy is more observational than obscure to the point where it might seem like the final 20 minutes of David Wain’s Role Models extended to full length, but even though this film deals in far simpler terms, it’s a different sort of comedy and one that’s similarly satisfying.
Perterson and Herman actively create a world where someone like Derek could actually assert his weight since anywhere else on Earth and in any other sport or hobby he would be considered a joke, and Smith makes the excellent foil that makes the film run like clockwork. He’s almost as much of a lead as Williams is, and he’s playing a role that’s light years away from his best known TV persona. He attacks the role of a scheming, magnanimous asshole with relish, and his chemistry with everyone in the cast makes it one of the best performances in any Canadian film this year.
The actual band of heroes does come off a bit thinly drawn with Lloyd simply being a nice guy who wants to do good things, his roommate Patrick (Jesse Reid) being needlessly brash and video game obsessed, and Oswald (Scott Patey) acting like the requisite sweet dumbass. To the credit of the writers and actors playing them, these aren’t characters that need deep and tragic backstories that are best saved for peripheral characters like those played by Smith and Posehn (who also gets his fair share of laughs in a surprisingly warm and good natured turn as a retired wizard). These really are people who are so bland that they could actually use anything remotely approaching physical activity to make their lives seem just a little less worthless. They get by only on the bare minimum in dull, baseless lives that they have deluded themselves into thinking are the best things ever. Little do they know that the people they think are squares are really having the times of their lives.
Lloyd the Conqueror comes at the perfect time of year to offset the multiplex blahs and complete lack of options other that that spy movie and that vampire movie you’ve already seen more than once. It’s a great autumn matinee film that oddly might want to inspire people not necessarily to go slaying dragons in an open field under some high tension power lines, but to actually go for a walk and take a look around them an appreciate the potential of the world around them. If it doesn’t, at least they can laugh at some dick jokes and how ridiculous everyone sounds explaining the rules of the games at hand.
Cast: Brian Posehn, Mike Smith, Evan Williams
Directed by: Michael Peterson
Top image: A scene from Lloyd the Conqueror.