One of my favorite Internet memes is that shot of Steve Buscemi on 30 Rock in the backwards ball cap, “Music Band” t-shirt, and dopey smirk asking high schoolers “how do you do, fellow kids?” If you’d like to see this GIF as an entire feature film, I recommend the Netflix original Rim of the World.
Hoping to tap into Stranger Things-mania and the undying love of The Goonies, this extremely unoriginal tale throws four kids together on a fast-paced quest to save the world from invading space aliens.
The dialogue is a parade of cringeworthy overreaches. I mean, every 13 year-old kid makes jokes about Werner Herzog, references Gal Gadot‘s mastery of Krav Maga, but also confuses Star Wars and Star Trek, right? The clockwork storyline is brazen in its adherence to formula, as if a Learning Annex seminar somehow came to life and sat down and got ahold of screenwriting software. And yet! And yet! I can not deny that despite these very real and glaring issues (let’s add cheapo special effects to the mix, too) this movie does kinda work in a very “I can’t believe I haven’t turned this off yet” type of way.
Lastly there’s Gabriel (Alessio Scalzotto), who doesn’t actually attend the camp, but happens to be at the lake retreat when the interplanetary invasion happens. His big secret is that he’s dyslexic and, naturally, the fate of all mankind hangs in the balance when he has to type in a complex set of numbers into a NASA computer.
Okay, so, aliens invade, all communication is lost, the adults ditched our crew and then a capsule lands from the ISS. An astronaut hands Alex a key and says, “Get this to Dr. So-And-So at the JPL labs and we can win the day!” then croaks. Poorly rendered aliens arrive and everyone runs around screaming for a while (while also cracking jokes).
Just when the gang overcomes one obstacle, there’s another. It zooms along and Bear McCreary‘s original symphonic score has that big John Williams vibe that evokes Amblin hits from the 1980s. It’s watchable, totally watchable, but the epitome of a “no, you don’t have to pause it” movie when you hit the kitchen for a snack.
Will 13-year-olds actually like it? I think they’ll see through much of the phony baloney dialogue, but some of the interpersonal scenes come together nicely. Credit where it’s due, a gag about “cockblocking,” surprising in its good-natured vulgarity, really lands nicely.
Clichéd stories work better on younger viewers if for no other reason than they haven’t been around long enough to have seen this movie a hundred times before. So maybe the “fellow kids” will do well with this after all.
Rim of the World premieres Friday, May 24 on Netflix.