During the introduction to The 2 Bobs on the opening night of SXSW, SXSW co-founder Louis Black referred to the comedy as Tim McCanlies's "Kevin Smith film." I'd argue that this isn't quite accurate -- instead, The 2 Bobs is the writer-director's Bruce Campbell film. I hope McCanlies won't be offended when I explain that this isn't because he physically resembles Campbell (sadly, so few people do). What I mean is that you don't want to go into The 2 Bobs thinking that this is going to be the same sort of dramatic film as McCanlies's Secondhand Lions, or a super-polished Hollywood studio comedy.
Instead, The 2 Bobs is a cheesy micro-budget film shot on the filmmaker's home turf, very much like Campbell's My Name is Bruce, or maybe Fanboys before the Weinsteins started messing with it. And like My Name is Bruce, I sighed inwardly at the dorky plot, clunky dialogue, and lame gags while at the same time laughing aloud at the unbelievably bizarre situations and jokes.
The two Bobs of the title are Horizontal Bob (Devin Ratray) and Vertical Bob (Tyler Francavilla), who dropped out of high school to start an incredibly successful videogame company that produces violent first-person shooters. (McCanlies says he was inspired by the creators of Doom.) Just as they are ready to release their latest and greatest videogame, someone breaks into their office and steals all the computers that house the code for the game ... and if they can't find their code, they'll be broke and unemployed and have to move back in with their parents.
As someone who's worked for software companies, I kept wondering if anyone else involved in the film had ever done a stint in high-tech or gaming. The opening sequence involves a bug report that is written on paper and delivered in person ... in an office and to people whose lives are completely computer-driven. On the other hand, it was an effective device to introduce us to a bunch of characters at once. The idea that these guys wouldn't have off-site backups ... that they could go so broke so fast ... that gamers are virulently anti-porn ... well, you get the point. The movie's audience is supposed to be techies, but even non-techies can spot the plot holes and inaccuracies. And the climactic "battle" scene felt borderline visually offensive, because I find it distasteful to watch even virtual females treated in certain ways.
On the other hand, some of the smallest moments in The 2 Bobs are the funniest. Leonardo Nam, as game artist The Dark Prince, is hilarious as he sheds his gamer persona. Jay Chandrasekhar of Broken Lizard draws laughs as The Spam King -- it's a shame McCanlies didn't cut the bland, unfunny embezzlers and focus solely on The Spam King as the nemesis of the film. I also got a guilty kick out of the "Boots 'N' Boobs" bar, which is Hooters taken to a crazily Texan extreme, and the ridiculous parody of JenniCam.
The 2 Bobs doesn't know the community it's gently mocking well enough to be as successful a film as Office Space or Fanboys. It doesn't have that "made from within" feeling ... except when it starts to feel like a love letter to Austin, as in the Porkapalooza sequence (a substitute for Spamarama). McCanlies obviously loves shooting in Austin, and I'd like to see him do more of it, but in a different vein. Still, The 2 Bobs works as an eye-rollingly silly broad comedy, a techie fairy tale with a few translation issues.