"Zero Charisma" was a crowdsourced film, presumably by geeks who long to see a role-playing game true to the spirit of gamers everywhere. The good news is that “Zero Charisma” gets a lot of things right. The bad news is it gets so many things right that there are several plot threads that are never really resolved that make for an unsatisfying ending.
Scott Weidemeyer (Sam Eidson) is the old school game master everyone loves to hate. If you've ever played Dungeons & Dragons, you know him well: the DM who house rules everything, argues on message boards, gets thrown out of hobby stores, and rules over his players with an iron fist. Scott's not particularly lucky with the ladies, but he’s got a place to game (his grandmother’s house) and he’s not afraid to use it.
The players around the table are all gaming archetypes: the hopeless nerd, the aspiring creative types, the guy with a family who is constantly battling with his spouse over his game time. When that player realizes that it’s the game or his spouse, he gives up the game. Worse, Scott's mom has returned and has plans to take over his grandmother’s house and move her into a home. Scott's sweet gaming pad is about to disappear. Reality, in essence, comes crashing into the long-standing fantasy world Scott has so meticulously created.
Thus begins a quest to find a new player. This is no easy feat, and there are plenty of opportunities to sneer at younger generations of players who came to D&D fantasy tropes by way of World of Warcraft. In the end, it’s a different archetype that finds his way into the gaming group: the hipster douche in the form of Miles (Garrett Graham).
This new breed of gamer has a successful career in a creative field, runs a popular blog, has a hot girlfriend, and treats D&D like a fun past time the same way other people treat a card game. He doesn’t take it too seriously.
Mile's acceptance in the group soon overshadows Scott, who inevitably finds himself compared to someone with much higher Charisma…and failing the opposed roll. Miles is everything Scott is not, and it’s not long before this rift comes to a head that involves a Gary Gygax stand-in, a philosophical argument over the purpose of playing role-playing games, and a lot of heavy metal.
The problem with “Zero Charisma” is that because of how it was edited, it shambles unevenly along. Considerable attention is paid to glances from Mile's girlfriend, who at one point appears to be flirting with our anti-hero. This plot point goes nowhere, despite the camera frequently zooming in on her expressions. There's also a lot of emphasis on people filming the climactic battle between Miles and Scott that again, goes nowhere.
The climax, which takes place at Miles' party, is meant to reveal the true douchery by showing that while Miles is happy to game with the nerds, he doesn’t really consider them friends. This isn’t really so much said as implied, as not all the other players are invited to the party. It begs the question though: so what? Is it really that big a deal if Miles doesn’t invite people to hang out socially? Additionally, the rest of the players never find out they weren’t invited. What should be a climactic emotional showdown becomes something of a slap fight.
Like the film “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Zero Charisma” asks what kind of happy ending can there possibly be for the mistfits of the world. Unlike that film, “Zero Charisma” has an answer and it’s not particularly satisfying. Instead of growing as a person, Miles keeps the game the same and just changes out the players.
“Zero Charisma” is a fun film for gamers, but it could be so much more. In the end our hero only raises his Charisma a point or two.
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