iTunes movie review: ‘Ready Player, One’

Director Steven Spielberg’s latest popcorn film, “Ready Player One” is now available on iTunes to buy or rent. And when I say “popcorn film,” that’s not a criticism because I love a good popcorn flick.

“Ready Player One” isn’t nearly as good as any of the Indiana Jones movies (and, yes, I even liked the fourth one despite Shia LaBeouf swinging on a vine like Tarzan and the “nuke the fridge” scene) or “Jaws,” but it’s a fun, frantic flick thought it overstays its welcome a bit and offers a mixed message. 

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Based on Ernest Cline’s bestseller, it’s set in 2045, with the world on the brink of chaos and collapse. People find consolidation and pleasure in the OASIS, an expansive virtual reality universe created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (played with wit by Mark Rylance). 

When Halliday dies, he leaves his immense fortune to the first person to find a digital Easter egg he has hidden somewhere in the OASIS, sparking a global contest. An unlikely young hero named Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan in a solid, if not gripping, turn) decides to join the contest and find himself hurled into a reality-bending treasure hunt that includes other prize-seekers such as Art3mis (a luminous Olivia Cooke) and a villianous CEO (a scenery chewing Ben Mendelsohn). 

“Ready Player One” is pretty much non-stop action from start to finish. Much of the film takes place in the virtual world of the OASIS, which means it’s a special effects bonanza. Those effects are state-of-the-art and usually breath-taking, but eventually become too much of a good thing over two-plus hours. I eventually felt like I was stuck in a video game.

Still, you can have fun spotting cameos of such 1980s (and earlier) characters as the Iron Giant, King Kong, Knight Rider Garbage Pale Kids, and a lot more. And there’s a wild scene out of “The Shining” that … well … you should just see for yourself. 

In addition to its too-long running time, my other complaint about “Ready Player One” is that it tries to have its Kate and Edith, Too (sorry, that’s an old Statler Brothers joke that’s even more nostalgic than the film). There’s a message that we should live in the real world rather than a virtual one. But — darn it! — the movie sure makes the VR world of the OASIS look mighty fun.

That said, you can buy or rent “Ready Player One,” grab a snack, sit back and enjoy a whiz-bang, if flawed, popcorn movie.

Apple World Today Rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★★