You can experience the agony and the ecstasy of Donkey Kong competition in a weird and wonderful new documentary.
No -- seriously.
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is an inspired film about the gaming competition between two grown men. The fact that anyone still plays Donkey Kong came as a bit of a surprise to this viewer; toss in the mullets on a couple of these guys and you'll be tempted to think the film is a mockumentary.
But it's very earnest.
The movie first introduces Billy Mitchell, world champion Donkey Kong player. Mitchell scored 874,300 points in the early 1980s and eventually was named Gamer of the Century in 1999.
It looked as if Mitchell's record would never be broken, especially if you were to ask Mitchell, a hot sauce entrepreneur (and chicken wing aficionado) in Florida and a man prone to making hilariously inflated statements about his own importance.
But a few years ago, one Steve Wiebe of Seattle, Washington, began to play Donkey Kong on a machine in his garage, and before too long he was challenging Mitchell's record. And then defeating it.
Steve Wiebe is a guy who has gone through hard times.
He's a husband and a father and a high school science teacher.
The interviews in the film with the people who know him make it clear that he's a sweetheart, but all that's gilding the lily.
Wiebe is his own best advertisement. With Mitchell, it's all about him. With Wiebe, it's all about the game.
The competition between these two men, ridiculous though it may sound, completely draws a viewer into the passion of the thing. More than once, Mitchell refuses to show up in public when Wiebe is attempting to beat Mitchell's old score and make the record books. Mitchell's Donkey Kong groupies give him phone updates on Wiebe's comings and goings.
Then, when the Guinness Book Of World Records gets involved, things get very fierce. You may find yourself cheering out loud for the best man to win.
The King of Kong includes old footage of Mitchell and other '80s gamers as well as interviews with several real-life, devoted gamers (such as Mr. Awesome, Roy Schildt) and with ref Walter Day.
This gaming world has all the intrigue, jealousy and jockeying for position of any complex society, and it's a treat to see the inner workings via The King of Kong.
If you're looking for something completely different at the movies, this could be it.
(This film is rated PG)
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