Cinema goers got their first taste of on-screen LARPing back in 2008 with David Wain’s Role Models. Although just a sub plot in Wain’s comedy, the fantastical world LARPing — a now better known acronym for live action role playing — would make an excellent subject for a feature film. Lloyd the Conqueror, marks director and co-writer Michael Paterson’s unabashedly Calgarian take on the community, but with marginal performances from much of the cast, and particularly disappointing on screen use of the very funny Mike Smith (Trailer Park Boys‘ Bubbles), Lloyd the Conqueror comes off as a much too tame and shy rumination on a topic where a potential wealth of easy belly laughs could be tapped.
Lloyd (Evan Willaims) attends the Calgary Collegiate Institute with his goofball friends Patrick (Jesse Reid) and Oswald (Scotty Patey). The crew are poster boys for community college slackers: they suck back beers, devour pizzas, play lots of video games and try to complete ridiculously easy book reports the night before they’re due. Their malevolent English Literature teacher Derek (Mike Smith) gives the boys a failing grade on their half assed assignment – a problem for the lazy dorks only because they need to maintain at least a C average in order to receive financial aid. Making a bargain he feels is a sure bet, Derek — also known in the local LARPing community as Derek the Unholy — challenges the boys to enter a match with the promise of a passing grade if they should win. Enlisting help from role playing OG Andy the ‘white wizard’ (Brian Posehn), the boys enter an exciting world of blood gods, elves, and tin foil ball lightning bolts in the ultimate battle for laziness.
From the moment that cuddly-stupid Oswald opens his mouth or smart-ass Patrick talks smack, it’s obvious that co-writers Andrew Herman and Michael Paterson have at least some idea about the funny types of characters they want in Lloyd the Conqueror. It’s Lloyd role in particular, with his always optimistic and ‘glue of the group’ mentality, which shows that Herman and Paterson couldn’t even do a concise job of doing these dopey characters justice. The potential for Lloyd the Conqueror quickly falls flat because of issues like poor joke delivery and routine and frankly boring subject matter. There are lots of mentions of dicks, balls and pussy, but Lloyd the Conqueror doesn’t take much time to develop style or any particular flare to the mentioning of these unmentionables.
Having seen Mike Smith create arguably one of the most iconic characters in Canadian television as Trailer Park Boys’ cat loving shed-dweller Bubbles, it’s intriguing to see that Smith would be acting as the evil and annoying antagonist Derek– something I thought Smith could execute with flying colours. Delivering only a few light chuckles, even Smith loses his to grasp on a performance which should be indicative of his well showcased talent.
The biggest problem with Lloyd the Conqueror is that its story remains tightly attached to the rails. We see Lloyd rally up the boys, meet the girl, get a problem thrown in his face and then fight against the seemingly impossible odds only to triumph at the last moment. For a film about such a creative modern day phenomenon, Lloyd the Conqueror takes a lazy approach to what could be a very funny conquest.