xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
[Editor's note: Roger Ebert filed this review in March, 2013. It was not the last review he ever wrote—that would be his piece on "To the Wonder"—but it's one of them.]
Here's a movie by nerds, for nerds, and about nerds. Set in the early 1980s, it claims to be a doc about a convention held to pit rival computer chess programs against each other. If you see it, as I did, without any advance knowledge that it's a spoof, the (limited) fun comes in how soon it takes you to realize you're being put on. It's a variation of the old classroom exercise about Swift's essay on the solution to the problem of hunger in Ireland. He proposed that the Irish eat their babies.
Although there' a $7500 grand prize, the competitors are in it for bragging rights. The writer-director, Andrew Bujalski, has gone to much trouble, and no doubt rummaged garage sales, to assemble early computers, low-tech analog video cams, and contestants who fit a checklist of nerd stereotypes: the oversized horn-rims, the pocket protectors, the shirts hanging out at the belt in back.
The convention is held in a low-rent motel that's hosting two other conventions: Some sort of know-thyself group, and a club of swinging singles. The Know Thyselfs get down on the rug and wrestle with their demons, while the partner of one swinger casually toys with a button on the blouse of the woman he brought with him. His nerd prey looks as if he may not have ever had sex, or if he has, didn't want any more.
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