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‘Love Virtually’ (review)

If ever a movie could be said to be “of its time,” it’s Love Virtually.

This movie is a satire of all-consuming modern technology. It’s all about phones, apps, laptops, virtual reality, AI, chatbots, memes, crypto-keychains, gaming, avatars, and French tugboats. (Long story on that last one.)

Ten years from now Love Virtually will be nostalgic for so many of today’s generation.

Twenty years from now it’ll be laughingly quaint and outdated for the next.

But right now, at this moment, I found it pretty enjoyable.

Now I’m an old dude. I go on Medicare in two months! I like to think I’m at least fairly hip when it comes to modern tech, however, so I was able to keep up and follow along pretty well.

I have to say that your own personal understanding and acceptance of all of the above-mentioned cyberstuff will most definitely affect your appreciation and understanding of Love Virtually.

Most of the actors other than former SNL regular Cheri Oteri and Stephen Tobolowsky were completely unknown to me. In recent years, the balding, bespectacled Tobolowsky has become one of those people whose mere presence in a movie or TV show elevates it. Prolific voice actor and comedian Paul F. Tomkins voices a major animated character in this as well.

Set in a world where the metaverse is an accepted add-on to reality for most people, the movie is a love story, in a way.

You have five couples of varied backgrounds and ages having separate arcs that ultimately cross over and tie together in both the virtual and real worlds. You have the harried sports agent with daddy issues neglecting his girlfriend to the point she begins an affair with a chatbot. There’s the online fighter who’s a nebbish in real life, and the girl he desperately wants not to lose. There’s a pair of middle-aged counselors who don’t realize their virtual selves are involved in an affair with each other. There’s the disgraced black basketball star in a mis-matched couple with an influencer perceived by her ignorance to be racist. Finally, there are a couple of seventh graders. (The nebbishy guy says to the kids, “Ya’ll need Jesus…and cold showers.” My favorite line in the picture.)

Hovering over and above all of them and their issues and foibles is the stylish hipster and ranked VR fighter, Kalvin Kluck, whose followers and fans have formed a quite literal cloak-wearing cult, complete with a logo, around their hero. L.E. Staiman, who co-wrote the film, directed it, and edited it, is also the real treat here, co-starring as the publicly charming mega-popular influencer. “Subscribe!” is his catchphrase, delivered always in a cheery, upbeat tone with finger guns no matter what else he’s been saying or doing. He reminds me somewhat of Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies. Kluck is purposely annoying to the audience but makes a fun rival and antagonist to our ostensible hero, “Roddy Danger.”

In the great tradition of movies, it turns out he is not what he seems.

With so much of the story taking place in virtual reality, about half (or more) of the movie is in 3-D animation. Surprisingly, it isn’t the state-of-the-art animation of the latest video games but instead has an uncanny valley feel strongly reminiscent of animation from a few years back. Once the viewer accepts the art style, though, it becomes perfect for what it needs to be.

The script itself is consistently funny with some ROFL lines (“I was a spell checker for Mavis Beacon,” says a chatbot.), all of the actors do a fine job in what almost amounts to dual roles, the special effects are flashy and well-done, true love ultimately saves the day, and there’s a delightful unexpected twist at the very end.

Add Stephen Tobolowsky to this Silicon Valley stew and Love Virtually makes for a splendidly unique rom-com as long as you’re someone who can tell the difference between Ethereum and a Twitch stream.

Great fun!

Booksteve recommends.

*  *  *  *  *
Produced by Jeff Ackerman, Curtis Augspurger, Yanni Rozes, Max Shifrin, Joe Staehly, L.E. Doug Staiman
Written by L.E. Doug Staiman, Cheston Mizel
Directed by L.E. Doug Staiman
Starring Cheri Oteri, Stephen Tobolowsky, Paul F. Tompkins, Adam Ray, Bunny Levine, Nikki Howard,
Tom Virtue, Ryan O’Flanagan, Peter Gilroy, Danielle Krivak, Paige Mobley, Henry Dittman, L.E. Staiman,
Nick Antonyan, Zachary Grant, Vincent Washington, Hymnson Chan, Greg Berman, Ksenia Valenti, Harper Frawley

Love Virtually is now available on Demand and Digital HD
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