There are a few movies by Steven Spielberg I’ve missed – The Big Friendly Giant, Always – but, generally, I see them all. He’s (beyond) dependable; he knows, maybe more than anyone alive, the nuts and bolts of filmmaking. When you go to a Steven Spielberg film, you’re guaranteed to get a professional product. It will be well paced, well scripted, certainly not boring.
Not this time. Ready Player One is an overlong, meandering mess, and a stain on Spielberg’s CV; it’s certainly the least satisfying film of his I can remember seeing. Spending much of its time in ‘The Oasis’, a video game, following a very, very bland young hero (played by a very, very bland Tye Sheridan) trying to… well, win a video game, this is a film essentially devoid of stakes, or at least any stakes I could get on board with.
Even outside its vacuous milieu, the film makes remarkably dunderheaded choices. An example that is emblematic of the whole: Sheridan’s avatar in the game falls for a cute female avatar, but when he professes his attraction, she warns him that IRL – in real life – she’s not so pretty. SPOILER ALERT: When he finally meets her, she’s gorgeous (Olivia Cooke plays her) with a small, and not unattractive, birthmark. It’s a groaner moment among many.
There are groaner moments galore in Blockers (aka Cockblockers), a ‘sex comedy’ that totally blows its (kind of) clever premise: three parents try to stop their daughters having sex on prom night. There’s a movie there, and this version of it bends over backward to feature casual diversity, diversity of sexuality, and, essentially, a pro-(safe)-sex message, but it also wallows in the kind of forced, saccharine sentimental schmaltz that much older films like Animal House and American Pie managed to avoid. We’re left, then, with a film that pretends to be progressive, but is actually pathetically mired in sloppy convention. The final twenty minutes are unwatchable; I was deeply embarrassed for every single actor on screen as they delivered lines that betrayed any hope the film’s (not even) risqué title promised.