In 2045, teen Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) is living his meaningless life in a depressed area of Columbus, Ohio known as "The Stacks" - where trailer homes are piled high atop one another. To escape reality, Wade joins many citizens in the virtual world of OASIS. This fantastic universe is the creation of genius James Halliday (Mark Rylance). When Halliday dies, his fortune and control of this fantasy world will go to the person who finds a hidden digital Easter egg within the VR realm. In OASIS, where no one uses their real name, Wade's avatar, Parzival, enters the race to find
three keys that provide clues to the egg's location. But evil corporation IOI, headed by power-hungry Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), is also after the grand prize. Danger awaits the contestants.

Steven Spielberg opens up another cinematic world of wonder and emotion that proves he's still the master filmmaker. The screenplay by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline, based on Cline's sci-fi novel, is a simple story of a race between good and evil for wealth and power. But the director delivers such a visually-stunning pop culture experience that it's almost impossible to catch everything in one sitting. The screen is filled with icons from the past, objects and posters. King Kong and The Iron Giant are easy to spot. "The Shining" plays a key role in the hunt. Revealing anything else will take away the thrill of discovery. Let's just say that it rivals "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", of which Spielberg was executive producer, in surprise cameos. A fine cast keeps this fast-paced quest in play. Tye Sheridan (Cyclops in "X-Men: Apocalypse") makes a convincing teen hero and Ben Mendelsohn chews up scenery as the ruthless villain. Mark Rylance, the Oscar-winning actor for Spielberg's "Bridge of Spies", brings a layer of melancholy to his portrayal of Halliday. This is a character the audience can empathize with. Olivia Cooke plays Art3mis/Samantha, a rebel against IOI, who Parzival/Wade teams up with and falls for. Other team members include Lena Waithe as Parzival's best friend Aech, along with Win Morisaki and Philip Zhao as brothers Daito and Sho. Simon Pegg has a small role as Halliday's ex-partner Ogden Morrow and T.J. Miller can be heard as virtual bounty hunter I-R0k, who works for Sorrento. The soundtrack is lively. Alan Silvestri's pounding score gets a lift from killer songs like "Jump" and "We're Not Gonna Take It". To get fully wrapped up in this thoroughly enjoyable event, see it on the biggest screen possible in immersive 3D. The mesmerizing "Ready Player One" is a game-changing treasure. (4/5 CAMS)

Rated PG-13 (sequences of sci-fi action violence, bloody images, some suggestive material, partial nudity and language)
Running Time: 140 minutes

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