ReelBob: 2016 Heartland Film Festival: ‘Trivia Night’
By Bob Bloom
I love trivia. I am a member of a trivia team and participate in events that raise money for local nonprofits.
That is why I found “Trivia Night” disappointing.
Competitive trivia is spirited and fun, but the movie, written by Addison Anderson, Colin Drummond and Michael Molina, fails to gel and engage its audience.
It lacks excitement and, most importantly, humor.
The movie’s premise is intriguing: A self-styled trivia legend hopes to make a comeback after failing miserably on a popular game show devoted to the theme.
The show features a smarmy, pretentious host who tries to rattle and belittle those who challenge him. The host asks 10 questions and, if there is a winner, that contestant gets $1 million.
No one has ever won. In fact, our hero, Scott, bombed on the first question. To add further humiliation, he fainted on air.
Five years after this calamity, Scott, played by Anderson, makes a meager living, going around New York winning trivia contests at various bars.
Scott soon gets a chance at redemption when he is invited to try out to be the final contestant, as “Trivia Night” is going off the air.
At first, he is reluctant to do so, but when his former college trivia-team member Davis, played by Drummond, shows up and announces he also was invited, Scott changes his mind.
The problem with “Trivia Night,” frankly, is that Scott and Davis are unlikable. They are self-centered, socially awkward nerds.
Their personalities grate, making it difficult to root for either one.
Plus, after a while, the banter and needling between the two becomes tiresome.
It seems that director Robert Gregson is trying to make a dark comedy. Some darkness is indeed there. What sorely is missing is the humor, or at least a bit of charm.
The movie, which is less than 90 minutes, feels much longer. Scenes continually move at a tortoise pace. The movie could have used more zip and wit.
Most of the film takes place in various small, cramped apartments or TV studios, giving it a claustrophobic dimension.
It also doesn’t help that most of the characters are so sketchily drawn and one dimensional, with the pursuit of trivia glory being the singular motivation in their lives.
“Trivia Night” strains to be funny — and it shows. The movie needed a sharper touch, with more verve and snap, which is too bad.
As someone who loves such contests, I found the movie shallow and unsatisfying.
Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom.
1½ stars out of 4
“Trivia Night” will show at 7:45 p.m., Friday, Oct. 21, at Showplace Traders Point 12; 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, at AMC Castleton Square 14; 2:15 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 26, at Showplace Traders Point 12; and 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, at AMC Castleton Square 14.