Nostalgia Critic's The Wall
Where… Just… Where do I start?
With a bit of a backstory.
Doug Walker first created his Nostalgia Critic character back in 2007, shortly after he had some success with his 5 Second Movies series took off on YouTube (everything shifted over to his website ThatGuyWithTheGlasses shortly afterwards, to avoid copyright takedowns). He donned a blazer and a hat to match, a loosened tie, his signature specs, and all of the rage in the world. Inspired by the cartoonish tantrums of Daffy Duck, the Nostalgia Critic reverted back to old terrible films that we all grew up on as children. He exhibited the frustrations that adults revisiting their childhoods had when they discovered, hey, this film was garbage all along. Walker also did all of his reviews alone (or with the slight help of his brother and close friends). He was picked up by the now-highly-toxic-and-problematic website Channel Awesome, and the rest is history.
In 2012, Walker grew tired of doing the Nostalgia Critic shtick. After being a major part of the do-it-yourself video critique game, he decided to call it quits and start his next venture: the sketch show Demo Reel, which featured a linear storyline of filmmaking being channeled by existing films and cinematic tropes (including feeling lonely ala Lost in Translation, or hopping on the hype of The Dark Knight Rises). Demo Reel was a gargantuan bust, but Walker was at a crossroads. He wanted to keep making these passion projects (including the ambitiously atrocious To Boldly Flee: a three and a half hour long journey featuring all of the Channel Awesome alumni, including Lindsay Ellis, Spoony, Linkara and other early ‘10s internet figures). He wanted to do them more than the actual nostalgic reviews. Plus, all of these cast members were now contractually obligated to work with him.
So, he returned to his Nostalgia Critic roots, but each episode was now a bloated half hour chore. He dabbled in making these kinds of reviews before, including his well received Moulin Rouge! review done in a musical form. His early works — straight up cynical reviews, or orchestrated complex reviews — had a cheap charm to them. They were ratty and low budget, but they were genuinely made by Walker and his closest pals. Until the #ChangeTheChannel movement happened in 2018, things were shoddy but earnest. Former Channel Awesome staff members brought concerns to light, including dishonest work ethics (sexual harassment, terrible pay, working with zero provided food or water, firing someone for requiring surgery, and much more). Walker didn’t initiate any of these terrible actions himself, but he got a bad image for allowing it all to take place to save his own skin. I didn’t even know he was still around until the #ChangeTheChannel movement began.
When I was reminded of him, I harkened back to my late teens, when I was first discovering film. I knew I wanted to review movies, but having the weekly Nostalgia Critic episodes allowed me to embrace the awful side of cinema as well. As a juvenile teen, his outbursts and snide remarks were all I needed to brighten my days. I didn’t want to become a negative pundit, but I wanted to know enough about movies to analyze them. I wanted Doug Walker’s knowledge on films. So, finding out he still did reviews a year ago, he was suddenly brought back to my radar.
His newest episode just came out. It’s a review of Pink Floyd - The Wall: a visual interpretation of the lauded concept double album. The album is pure rock opera perfection: the film has its cult audiences, I’ll admit. So, Walker — still fixated on delivering his own brand of satire — released a review in the form of a short film remake of The Wall in parodic form, as well as his own joke version of an actual The Wall album (with YouTube multi instrumentalist Rob Scallon providing the backing tracks). Through Scallon, he wrangled Slipknot’s lead vocalist Corey Taylor, and his son (who is allegedly a Nostalgia Critic fan) to play the “Pink” parts of the satire.
THIS EXPERIMENT IS A COMPLETE AND UTTER, DIABOLICAL FAILURE IN EVERY SINGLE SENSE.
IT IS BEYOND DESCRIPTION, BUT I WILL TRY MY BEST.
First things first: the movie is an absolute mess of an attempt. Since I last stopped watching his episodes back in 2010 or so, it has appeared that Walker has not gotten better lighting, sound, or even camera equipment. He’s had the online critic circuits by the throat for at least ten years, especially during the early 2010’s. He can’t simply rent better equipment for a project like this (if he won’t do so for his entire career)? He worked months on this. He posted updates all over his social media accounts. This is the end result he was fine with? Twelve years in the business, and there is next to zero evolution. The cheap charm no longer exists. This just seems lazy at this point. Add in every smart camera angle and precise cut as you want. You can’t disguise the worst of materials when they’re this bad.
Then there is his still present reliance on the worst of green screen effects. Even scenes of a young “Corey” (again, the Pink character) going to the cinema is done so in front of a green screen in appalling fashion. In Critic’s other reviews, fine. He pumps these out very quickly. But, this Wall satirical remake was a major project for him. He wanted this to be his biggest achievement in years. The effects are so distanced away from being bad. They’re next to impossible to discuss.
Another DIY setback is the lack of performers, which is fine. You work with what you work with. But the painfully obvious lack of extra help only makes this review-film abomination even more scant. You see the same couple of bodies placed in many scenes, and the wide reaching appeal of the original Wall feels barren here. The part were Pink (well, it’s supposed to be Corey, but the Nostalgia Critic takes on this part, for some reason) addresses the masses has him talking to screens instead (a commentary on modern day social media; the confusion of this statement I will get into shortly). Again, you work with what you have, but this is too much of too little. Nostalgia Critic’s The Wall is so ambitious with dazzling the very slight efforts it makes. Perhaps if it exchanged its priorities, and did more before so, we wouldn’t be here. But, alas, the entire review feels like the feeble attempts at saving a piece of tissue paper in a blazing inferno: doomed from the start, and embarrassing to strive for.
Then comes that part about the review. It’s barely a review at all. The majority of this “special” is the insistence that The Wall is nonsensical, art over substance drivel. Walker promises that this review and the accompanying album are a “love letter” to Pink Floyd, and I honestly get why he means that only because I used to watch his reviews. Walker goofs on everything he loves, but this is a concerning asset to have when you are a critic first and foremost. If this is a love letter, why are you saying parts of the film are pretentious, boring, sappy or strange? If this is a satire, why is so much effort put into replicating every single important shot and sound from the film? The middle ground here is befuddling, to say the least.
The majority of the critiques come in song form, and Walker’s vocals are so zany and drenched in enough reverb to be nonsensical gibberish. Even if you can pick up what he is saying, every line is more about fitting into the confinements of the original songs than they are well thought out statements. You’re looking at lines about parts being lame, the “boring” part of The Wall, and how “Goodbye Blue Sky” is the “Oscar Bait” song of the film (when a] The Wall as an album came out years before the film, and b] this film preceded the worst suspects of songs being used as bait, when the notion of films being awards geared in such a specific was only just starting).
Also, The Wall, as interesting as it may be, is far from the most difficult film to dissect. Walker is stuck in the middle, deciding that it is both too abstract and open ended, and too obvious and shoehorned with its symbolisms. A film simply cannot be both, especially when most of these metaphors are misunderstood. Walker pokes fun at the World War II scenes (particularly references to the holocaust), especially since they come right after images of high school life. Well, Walker may not have known that The Wall was a major work for Pink Floyd icon Roger Waters, because it represented his own childhood (including his father killed at war when he was a child) and his former bandmate Syd Barrett who was mentally deteriorating. When Walker pokes fun at the WWII scenes, he’s completely missing the abrupt discovery of hate-driven death during Waters’ youth. When he mocks Pink for bringing a date up to stare at a television, he’s clueless about Barrett’s actual illnesses.
Never mind how misinformed this review is. Let’s focus on how disjointed it is, too. You have a film that “satirizes” the original, but it also is trying to make statements on modern day schooling, social media, Pink Floyd’s actual music, and more. There is zero focus. How is this even a coherent review? Either keep this parody a review, as intended, or make it a grandiose statement on one of these things. I want to appreciate the thought put into the “hashtag” chant, but I can’t when it has zero value in this setting. It’s absolutely useless. Why are we spending time listening to these thoughts? Is the purpose to insinuate that The Wall was similarly confusing its then-current issues? Make that point drive home, then. Otherwise, this is a series of non-relating fluffs that have no business being projected in such a theatrically nauseating way.
By the way, there’s no commentary on how Pink builds his own mental wall. There’s no jokes about the actual, literal point of the album and film. Walker mocks how there are so many characters, moments and ideas that don’t link. They do, Doug. It’s called… literally… called… The Wall. There are songs that actually are titled “Another Brick in the Wall”. All of these elements are bricks of this titular wall. Claiming all of these moments are non-relational does not make it so. For fuck sakes, the penultimate song is an actual trial of these past characters coming back, and Pink facing all of his demons at once. Making all of your own moments arbitrary is not only misinformed, it’s effortless to boot. That leads me to the animated final act, with CGI characters made by designer Fennah. So, Walker is quick to poke fun at The Wall for having characters with little thought (spoiler alert: they have much thought), but he literally got a well-established YouTube animator to use the exact same characters found on the channel in his The Wall parody… when they have zero place being there. That’s like bringing in Don Corleone into a bowling scene in The Big Lebowski. Sure, maybe he can bowl, but this is beyond stupid. These are actual characters (living cowboy ferrets and satanic goat wizards or something) being used to drive the point home that The Wall uses non-fleshed out characters. The joke is a colossal failure, because 1) these are well thought out characters by an actual hard working render artist, and 2) they have nothing to do with the abstract, politically charged images in The Wall. Blissfully ignorant, much?
By the end of the film, Corey Taylor finally gets to say something: that he didn’t say anything in the film. He also brings up the biggest problem: this is a review that is barely a review. So, Walker shrugs and says (paraphrasing) “Oh, the film’s pretty good. Imaginative but a bit full of itself”. It’s the final nail in the coffin, until the actual final nail, where Corey Taylor busts out a guitar and sings the theme song to Spongebob Squarepants: a nonsense joke with zero relevance or joy after the near-forty minute torture fest before it. Like that final squeaking fart of a joke attempt, the entire film is nothing but missed shot attempts. Hot takes that are lukewarm and barely profound. Revelations that actually aren’t, due to how incredibly wrong they are. Verbal and visual gags that, well, do make me want to gag, to be fair. All of this found in an exceptionally horrendous package of grade school computer effects, appalling music (even Scallon’s playing calls it quits, with uninspired improvised solos and abrupt song endings), and acting that I haven’t discussed (and don’t need to. Take a wild guess, folks).
The biggest sin? Doug Walker clearly finds all of this to be affecting on some level. Is this intentionally trash and meant to resemble the bad quality of making films with your friends? If so, it’s way too chiseled away at. Is this meant to actually be hilarious, eye-opening satire to the point of brilliance? I certainly hope not, because no film this decade would be this monumentally wrong. Who knows what this is trying to be. It’s barely a review. It’s hardly a parody. It’s not even a coherent work. Even The Room, which Walker has openly mocked as the Nostalgia Critic in the past, is more streamlined than this. At least the cheating story lasts the entire film, there. Here, statements are made just to be made. Walker’s favourite film of all time is Brazil: one of the best pieces of social satire ever. Has he not realized that Brazil focuses on one major topic of discussion the entire time? It doesn’t talk about classist and authoritarian struggles, then go into why we need to save sea turtles.
There are the briefest moments where you somewhat understand what this is all about. The main one is “Comfortably Dumb”: a number based on a very obvious Pink Floyd song that I won’t even bother bringing up. In the film, instead of being tended to by doctors, “Corey” is falling asleep during the film, and dragged away from watching it. Walker sings about his disconnect from The Wall, and how he’s maybe missing out on what he enjoyed as a child because he is now a complacent adult. It’s a short instance where, suddenly, all of this insanity makes sense. He is the cookie-cutter student forced down the conveyer belt of adulthood by the school system. He is the self-isolating hermit that is so removed from life and his loved ones. He is the voice that is disfigured by his internal conflicts that do more harm than good. He is Pink, but barely the shell of Pink. As a critic, a writer, a singer, a filmmaker, an actor, and an entertainer, Doug Walker has never fallen flatter than his most self-awarding project Nostalgia Critic’s The Wall.
That title is actually very appropriate, now that I think about it. In 2019, the Nostalgia Critic’s the wall I bash my head against when I want to feel the frustration of having a once-promising internet talent seemingly waste all of his years progressing not one iota forward. The worst part is, he’s genuinely proud of this effort, and I feel badly that he is. He was once a self aware internet character, but now the Nostalgia Critic is as delusional as they come. Hell, I would argue Doug Walker’s great friend Tommy Wiseau is more with-it nowadays (especially after The Disaster Artist). I don’t even know what to say anymore. To see such a well intentioned bomb of this magnitude is almost a crime. Nostalgia Critic’s The Wall is the most daring film of the decade. Well, in the sense that Doug Walker may not get out of uploading this video unscathed. His career is surely never going to recover. His slogan “I remember it so you don’t have to” actually doesn’t apply here. No one’s going to forget those scarring images, painful songs, and minutes wasted. No one. Tear down Nostalgia Critic’s The Wall. Tear down his wall.
Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.