Review by Mark Schwab
I guess I never really considered myself too much of a nerd/geek growing up. I played sports, had an active social life, and rarely played video games at the mall (or even on our Atari 2600). Then again, I did play a lot of Dungeons & Dragons around various coffee tables and was a huge fan of WarGames - where Matthew Broderick almost destroys humanity by hacking into N.O.R.A.D using a 300-baud modem and yet is somehow a sweet-faced hero. Maybe I had blocked out my inner-nerd and all it took was an Austrian to melt down the hard water stains on my psyche and embrace it again.
The Austrian is one Johannes Grenzfurthner (going to Ctrl+C that last name right now) and he has made a simply wonderful documentary in TRACEROUTE - a lovely ode to nerdom and all things geeky. Flying into San Francisco and travelling East to New York City by van, Grenzfurthner stops at many points along the way (such as Area 51 and Stan Winston Studios) while giving us a little history, chatting with the local folks and opening up about his own personal nerd journey.
This doc works in some very unconventional ways, not the least of which is our plucky protagonist. Grenzfurthner is an absolute charmer as our host and his narration is note-perfect (the accent is so cool in that Werner Herzog kind of way). It's really rare in a documentary about a not-that-famous person where you become almost instantly won-over and invested in their personal journey. The other surprise here is that all of the places visited aren't really that unusual and the info provided is on the average Wikipedia page...and yet when Grenzfurthner (love Ctrl+V) gets mingled into it with his interview subjects, it all comes across as a fresh and upbeat perspective. He lovingly celebrates his subjects' geeky passions with a geniunely non-judgemental eye that you can't help but smile at. Leave it to an Austrian to hold a mirror up to America's own (at times) absurd history.
My one quibble is the very end of the movie where Grenzfurthner opts to break the spell he's cast on us with a strange lapse into practical effects territory but it is literally a few minues out of a 2-hour running time that I could have watched for much longer. If this gets a DVD release, I'd imagine there could be a bounty of wonderful extras.
Beautifully paced, strongly written (that narration of his is truly crafted like a storyteller), with an excellent Casio-ized score of pop-culture movies, TRACEROUTE will inspire you to fly your nerd/geek flag high.