Wade on Birmingham

Sidewalk 2009: 12-sided lives


Movie review: ‘The Dungeon Masters’

By Kenn McCracken

Review at a glance: “The Dungeon Masters” has no agenda as a documentary, other than to show three role-playing gamers and their hobby up close.

The Dungeon Masters

A scene from “The Dungeon Masters.”

Wade on Birmingham - Sidewalk Moving Picture FestivalWhen I watched “The Dungeon Masters,” I wondered if it would present a fair portrayal of people commonly regarded as socially inept geeks. The documentary follows three participants in role-playing games, especially Dungeons and Dragons (the title refers to the person who organizes and runs the games).

The film screens Saturday at the  Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival.

I was pleasantly surprised. While most documentaries that receive attention seem to have an overt message, “The Dungeon Masters” does a commendable job in presenting a likely prejudged topic in a very “without-comment” manner.

The film, directed by Keven McAlester, was too long by 30 minutes, delving into areas that seem completely tangential to the focus. While the storyline follows the three subjects, too many scenes come across as either minutiae or unrelated to their hobby.

As a people watcher and a (cough) former D&D player in elementary school, I would’ve also liked to know more about why they became interested in gaming, how it influences their everyday lives, what they think about being stereotyped. The three touch upon these points briefly, but I wanted more substance.

The film is beautifully shot, as cinematographer Lee Daniel seems to have a natural for presenting a mostly unbiased view while still delivering some extraordinary scenes.

Make no mistake: “The Dungeon Masters” is not going to change your mind. If you’re a gamer, you’ll recognize your friends or yourself.

If you’re the guy who beat up my high school friends, you’ll still be a small-minded jock destined to die alone and miserable, secretly wishing you’d had a good hobby, too. (Kidding. Mostly. Sort of. OK, not really.)

The film will, however, demonstrate a well-made and well-considered documentary.

Kenn McCrackenKenn McCracken (@insomniactive) is a director and an award-winning screenwriter (2005 Sidewalk Sidewrite grand prize, “Muckfuppet”).

He’s also a writer (Birmingham Weekly, Spin.com, mental_floss), a bassist for the Exhibit(s), an eight-time cat juggling champion for Malta and an ongoing experiment in sleep deprivation. He occasionally steals your best ideas to claim at his blog, Dairy of a Madman.

“The Dungeon Masters” will screen at 6:15 p.m. Saturday at Alabama Power.

Video: Interview with “The Dungeon Masters”
director, Keven McAlester


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