"Peter 'A Christmas Story' Billingsley Drops Some F-Bombs!"
Neither here nor there, it's watchable but never really gets out of second gear.The best thing that can said for Arcade is that it's superior to the dreadful "Bishop of Battle" segment in the atrocious 1983 horror anthology Nightmares. For a low-budget straight-to-video endeavor, it's not bad, with director Albert Pyun and cinematographer George Mooradian giving the mediocre material a level of visual sophistication it doesn't really deserve. With a story idea by Charles Band (forty-six directing and two-hundred-forty-six producing jobs) and screenplay by David S. Goyer (the fine Van Damme Death Warrant and Pyun's acceptable Kickboxer 2: The Road Back), Arcade stars the appealing Megan Ward stars as high-school senior Alex Manning, who's having a tough year due to her mother's recent suicide and grieving father's all-but-comatose state. Her boyfriend takes her to the arcade hangout Dante's Inferno where a company executive is unveiling an innovative virtual-reality game with the slogan "Reality will never be the same"; boasting of the game's ability to respond like a human, learn, and change its strategy, he gives Alex's boyfriend a go at it, but while everyone else is in the other section of the arcade getting free home versions to take home with them for marketing purposes, we see that the game has a rather dire ramification -- when you die while playing your body completely disappears and is trapped in the game's world. The boyfriend can't be found, and Megan and another student suspect there's a lot more to the game than meets the eye: while playing the home version, Alex is exhilarated but also frightened by its realistic intensity (not to mention it knowing her name); and when she tries hitting the Escape button she finds the game is not so easy to turn off. It's got a mind of its own, of course, and the rest of the movie details Alex's efforts to get the truth out of the game company and come to her boyfriend's assistance. Arcade has the bad luck to be coming out a year after Brett Leonard's superb The Lawnmower Man, which boasted not only far better virtual-reality special effects but a pair of strong characterizations by Pierce Brosnan and Jeff Fahey. It was an underrated cautionary fable about the dangers of unchecked advanced technology, while Arcade, save for some decent performances and pacing, doesn't have much suspense and imagination -- it's pretty square, and the exploitive suicide subplot in this kind of entertainment is fairly offensive. So despite it not being terrible, the movie isn't terribly interesting, either. Pared down to thirty minutes and shorn of profanity, it'd make a perfectly fine ABC Afterschool Special.It's like the Intellivision game system -- better than the Atari 2600 but not ColecoVision.