“Unicorn City,” the freshman effort by film-making brothers Bryan and Adrian Lefler, does a good job paying homage to the ritual of playing pencil and paper role-playing games (like Dungeons and Dragons) and to its fans. The movie is faithful to its source material and the research the Lefler brothers did into tabletop gaming translates into some very authentic glimpses into the social dynamics that make up D&D groups.
It’s funny, thrilling and has a high enough production value that, from the looks of it, you would never guess that this is the first feature-length movie the Leflers have ever made.
The story has some inside jokes meant as a wink and a nudge to regular players of D&D but the story as a whole remains very accessible to regular audiences.
Devin McGinn plays the title character, Voss, who plays the character Magmald Teufelschlager the Bardladin (a mixing of the classic D&D classes bard and paladin) during the guild’s gaming sessions. Voss wants nothing more in life than to work for the company that produces his favorite RPG: Warlocks of the Beach (A clever play on the name of the company that actually produces D&D: Wizards of the Coast.) During his latest job interview with Warlocks, his leadership skills are brought into question. With the help of his doting fan Marsha, played by Jaclyn Hales, Voss devises a plan to show off how good a leader he can be and land his dream job. To accomplish this, Voss decides to trick his gaming guild friends into letting him lead their group under the surreptitious pretence of creating a utopian society for gamers known as “Unicorn City.”
Players arrive at Unicorn City dressed as their characters, a practice commonly known as Live-Action Role-Playing or LARPing, and interact with each other as their personas. Voss’ all-consuming pursuit to prove his mettle starts off with some hilarious antics but eventually his obsession begins to alienate all of his friends and family. His selfish actions finally test the relationship with his most steadfast supporter Marsha, who all the while has been trying to get him to even notice her. Once she is driven into the arms of his arch-nemesis Shadow Hawk, played by Jon Gries of Napoleon Dynamite fame, Voss must decide what is truly important to him.
McGinn’s physical comedy, droopy eyed expressions and somewhat oblivious portrayal of Voss is very entertaining to watch. However, the breakout performance is by Hales who is very convincing as the anxious and lovelorn Marsha.