There’s something strangely likable about Rise of the Fellowship, which serves as an affectionate homage–if technical spoof as well–of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings adaptations. Ron Newcomb’s direction isn’t original, but it’s effective, and Brian Pennington’s photography is outstanding.
The film centers around four high school students who have to beat the odds to get to a video game competition–the filmmakers got permission to use the Lord of the Rings game, which is apparently looks a lot like World of Warcraft. So, think The Wizard, but with Rings references and at least two guys doing McLovin impersonations.
Rise doesn’t actually succeed as a high school picture. The script, from Newcomb, Scott Mathias and Christopher Bunn, gets lost–quite literally–in the woods. In those woods, the teens meet Wolf J. Sherrill as this former gamer hippie who helps them. Sherrill’s awesome. If Newcomb intended him to come off as he does, major kudos to Newcomb’s abilities as a director.
Unfortunately, most of the rest of the cast is terrible so I doubt it was Newcomb. Sherrill’s just hilarious.
The other really good performance is the lead, Justin Moe. Moe makes up for his costars throughout, who are constantly fighting for the worst performance award. It probably goes to Jayme Bell for sustained badness, but Cole Matson isn’t so much better as sincere. Emma Earnest, as the only girl and therefore Moe’s love interest, is bad too.
It’s long, but eventually amusing with a couple good performances.
Directed by Ron Newcomb; written by Newcomb, Scott Mathias and Christopher Bunn; director of photography, Brian Pennington; edited by Pennington; music by Dale Clay; produced by Newcomb, Mathias, Shane McClurg and Michel Aboudib; released by Phase 4 Films.
Starring Justin Moe (Randall), Emma Earnest (Stacey), Jayme Bell (Squirrelly), Cole Matson (Nate), Ron Newcomb (Stan), Drew Trementozzi (Thad), Jason Krznarich (Joe), Alyssa Jacobsen (Lisa), Wolf J. Sherrill (Baba Melvin Schnabel), Melissa Temme (Gwen), Ashley Batten (Commune #1), Stephen Rourke (Pete), Ric Tejera (Mr. Wardin) and Randolph Nesseler (Commissioner Marv).