A whiff of cultural nostalgia goes a long way. A whole garden of it can carry moviegoers a mile.

"Ready Player One" appeared ready to pluck those daisies all day long. The Movie adaptation of Ernest Cline's seminal story placed people, from all walks of life, into a world of virtual promise. It's a classic coming-of-age tale, with plenty of CGI elements thrown in for effect. Overall, it's a wild ride that can thrill fans of all ages.

About the movie

"Ready Player One" is a science fiction adventure movie. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the film received its wide release on March 29, 2018.

Wade Watts is living in the Columbus stacks in futuristic 2045, where everything sucks. Well, everything except the OASIS, a virtual reality simulation created by an idiosyncratic inventor. This inventor left an Easter egg within his game, which hands the victor the keys to the whole simulation, plus a ton of money. That leaves it open to other, nefarious characters to step into the game, though. Wade must forge a path to victory before someone else does.

A world of excitement, danger

Warning: be prepared to be dizzy at the start of the movie. The cinematography can be breathtaking for some, nauseating for others. We're basically spinning around as we view the stacks before being taken into all the OASIS has to provide.

Once you get past that, however, you're ready for "Ready Player One."

This movie is all about the world of visual wonder. All of the characters can come off a little flat. Some of them can even be inconsistent with their motivations. But none of that matters, because the environment they play within is just nonstop eye candy.

It's a stunning world.

There are four primary venues within the OASIS we're exposed to as an audience. One is a library of virtual memory, which admittedly doesn't stand out visually. The race track does, though. It provides a glimpse of New York City (as all virtual reality simulations should), except with King Kong and Jurassic Park dinosaurs wreaking havoc on the course.

The next one - the one that really immerses "Ready Player One" in its nostalgia - is the setting for "The Shining." Having never seen the classic horror flick, I watched through closed fingers. Still, the rendering was immaculate. It demonstrated just how much Cline (and Spielberg) love classic cinema.

The final venue was more of the run-of-the-mill-big-battle-scene spot. Still, stunning. Apparently, the movie was unable to escape its own constraints.

While the characters weren't particularly nuanced, they were still exciting to watch. "Ready Player One" built the idea that people's lives in the real world and virtual world don't have to coalesce. More could've been done with that idea. After all, Wade's best friend in the game turned out to be a different gender than he expected, but his cute love interest turned out to be...a cute love interest.

Not nostalgic enough?

The trailers for "Ready Player One" portended a festive array of cultural pop-ups destined for the big screen. It didn't quite come through on that promise. The music was very much of a more classic era, with Van Halen's "Jump" immediately popping out of the screen. But the visual references didn't follow as much as expected.

"The Iron Giant" was a prominent part of the trailer, but not the movie. There were many passing references, so quick that many people probably missed them, like the one to Batman. To some degree, that works well with the movie's plot of an Easter egg hunt - there were Easter eggs all over "Ready Player One." For some, however, it didn't feel like enough.

The ending of the movie also felt disingenuous. Suddenly, the chief villain of the movie lost his motivation, for no discernible reason. That allowed everything to be tied in a neat ribbon. It just didn't work for me.

Final thoughts

Alas, it's still a rip-roaring trip through a world of idealized imagery. Frankly, family members of any age can have a blast. One may think "Ready Player One" is targeted to gamers, but it's really not. All audiences can slip into this cultural fantasy for a couple of hours.

Grade: A-