Monday, May 28, 2007

Great movie: King of Kong

My wife and I and my parents just got back from seeing The King of Kong at the Seattle International Film Festival. I'd read about it in Sports Illustrated and again in Seattle Weekly, and was curious. It's one of the best movies I've seen in a while, and the best documentary in even longer (better than Spellbound, better than Wordplay, better than Supersize Me...and I don't say any of those lightly.

It's about a junior high science teacher from Redmond, Washington, Steve Wiebe, who has a thing for Donkey Kong. He played a bunch of it in college, and during a time of being laid off, he wanted something in his life he had control over. So he bought a stand-up Donkey Kong machine for his garage. He sees the record is held by Billy Mitchell, a gaming legend from Hollywood, Florida, and he sets out to break it. He videotapes his game (as per regulations) and sets the record.

A few weeks later, a couple of dudes show up at his house to check out his machine. They declare that it's not legit...a board has been replaced. No record.
Who's behind this? Billy Mitchell.

Thus begins an incredible ride.

Mitchell and his referees encourage Wiebe to set the record live on an approved machine at a tournament in New Hampshire. We get to watch the whole thing.

I don't want to give any of it away. It's such a fantastic movie that you really need to see it yourself. Rarely in documentaries do you have such an obvious good guy and bad guy (Mitchell is a hilarious black-hatted foil...I swear he's like the bad guy in Dodgeball). The crowd (which, I will grant you, was very pro-Wiebe and featured his family, friends, and co-workers) cheered loudly throughout the movie and gave Wiebe, his family, and the filmmakers a standing ovation at the end of the movie. Like Spellbound, Wordplay, and Trekkies, this is a movie about nice, cool, and immensely quirky people...but unlike those, it's about nothing less than a fight against injustice.

The King of Kong opens in Seattle on the weekend of August 17th. Everyone within driving distance should see it...that way it'll gain the national release it deserves, and everyone can get a shot at it. It's simply fantastic.


Paula Reed said...

Sounds very quirky and very cool!

Jim Anderson said...

After all this time, I finally watched it (thanks, Netflix Instant Viewer!). Very, very good. his daughter's observation--"A lot of people ruin their lives over this stuff"--is so perfect. Wiebe seems like a great guy.

I had a little sympathy for Mitchell, I have to admit. I mean, the wife with the boob job, the hot sauce empire... he's a walking Greek tragedy.