Review: “The King Of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters” (2007) PG-13 79min
May 29th, 2008 by Maxim · 2 Comments · 6,929 Views
The plot: A sport documentary directed by Seth Gordon and starring Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell as themselves. In 1982 Billy Mitchell achieved a high-score on Nintendo’s Donkey Kong machine – the prequel to Mario franchise. 25 years later unemployed Steve Wiebe beaten his record and submitted the video tape of his record to the Twin Galaxies arcade club. Over the next several years Steve has gone to extraordinary length to prove validity of his record, while Billy Mitchell was trying everything in his power to stay the world champion at Donkey Kong.
The good: If you are into movies like Trekkies or Wordplay (2006), this is actually a quite fascinating movie. It’s well-directed and very well edited. I cared for the underdog, and I felt for both Steve and Billy – director Seth Gordon took time to develop the characters by telling a lot of their life stories and interviewing their families. It was interesting to watch how Steve was trying to prove validity of his record and Billy Mitchell was so desperate to stay champion by trying to avoid or sabotage Steve’s record. An interesting view at competitiveness in out society. What’s also fascinating is how different these two guys are in terms of their success in business and how Steve’s family was supporting his addiction for years. There’s an awesome sequence where Steve is taping himself going for a new record while his child is screaming for dad to wipe his butt – for hours! – “[crying] Stop playin’ Donkey Kongggggg!“, he was screaming from his potty.
I loved background music from the 80s and funny midi tunes on synthesizer that sounded like music (if you can call it that) from the early computer games, but especially Lenard Cohen’s song. Despite the subject, this is not a dull movie.
The King Of Kong was nominated and won Best Documentary award at three separate festivals.
The bad: You will either love or hate it. It will not be interesting at all for many people. In the beginning I thought it’s a mockumentary, but it turned out to be completely serious about the subject. The movie wants to be bigger then it is by using the word “Saga” a lot and using Star-Wars type of moving text to quickly tell the latest results of competition between Steve and Billy after the film ended. In theatrical release this sequence was omitted. This might be one of those useless records in the Guinness book that’s not going to make anyone happier except the players themselves – for being best in the World at something. Unlike some other people in Guinness book of records, like ones who made biggest ball of chewing gum or being smallest person in the world, these two guys are sportsmen in a way. Their achievement requires a lot of practice and hand-eye coordination and quick reaction. That being said, competitive gaming is a big industry these days with some high-stakes gambling going on.
I can’t believe Steve’s family put up with him for so long. Perhaps Julie explained it: “Work is for people who can’t play video games.”
Julie Wiebe: I never knew that the Guinness World Record Book was so… I never knew it was so important.
Steve Wiebe: I guess a lot of people are… yeah, a lot of people read that book.
Julie Wiebe: [while directly looking at Steve, her father] Some people sort of ruin their lives to be in there.
Steve Wiebe: I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs. I play video games, which I think is a far superior addiction to any of those other ones.
The summary: If you liked “Trekkies”, you will probably like this movie too – it’s a documentary about a niche in sport – competitive Donkey Kong players and their fans. If you are not watching it in theater where you pay to stay in, it will not be hard to walk away from this documentary if you are watching it on DVD. It probably qualifies as documentary for guys.
The cast: (All as themselves) Steve Wiebe, Billy Mitchell, Walter Day, Mark Alpiger, Greg Bond, Robert Mruczek, Todd Rogers
The crew: Director – Seth Gordon | Producers – Beau Bauman, Ed Cunningham, Luis Lopez, Ross Tuttle, J. Clay Tweel | Original Music – Craig Richey | New Line Cinema | Picturehouse Entertainment
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