Far from the nerd-in-a-barrel bloodbath it could have been, this documentary follow-along at the 2010 edition of San Diego's annual comics and pop-culture extravapalooza is a tender, thoughtful paean to geek community. Comic-Con tracks a handful of participants eager to make a splash, including a pair of would-be comic-book illustrators, an ambitious spare-time costume designer, and Chuck Rozanski, cranky proprietor of Denver's Mile High Comics, who's just looking to keep his business afloat. The emotional high point comes when a young man proposes marriage to his girlfriend at a Q&A with the surprisingly gracious Kevin Smith. Director Morgan Spurlock, who doesn't hog the camera for a change, captures these disparate arcs with humor and insight (Holly Conrad, the frankly adorable costumer, cracks that her convention gambit is "a metaphorical suicide mission for my future") and incorporates undistracting contextual comments from industry hotshots like Smith, Joss Whedon, Eli Roth, and others who have made the transition to lucrative professional nerd-dom. You could argue that Spurlock and co-writer Jeremy Chilnick go too easy on the whole endeavor; they broach the steady encroachment of Big Hollywood on the con, but the dangers of obsessing over worlds and people who don't exist, if there are any, aren't raised. In an era when mind-bendingly vaporous banking shenanigans nearly brought civilization down, however, it hardly seems pertinent. The emphasis is on fun and inclusiveness, and even people who haven't touched a funny book since puberty, if then, will appreciate Comic-Con's savvy demonstration that having a tribe to belong to can't be underestimated.
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