The King of Kong ****
Directed by Seth Gordon
This Film Is Not Yet Rated-Probably PG for a brief sexual joke.
"The King of Kong" is by far one of the best documentaries I've seen in ages-informative, fun to watch, intense. It was a complete blast, and at times it was like I was watching a narrative piece. It was the first film I actually ripped a five for the vote ballot that they pass out before each feature. It's that's good! "The King of Kong" dives into the world of competitive arcade game playing, and follows Steve Wiebe, a good hearted family man who just lost his job and finds solace in the arms of Donkey Kong. And not the Super Nintendo Donkey Kong, but the classic game where Mario is on the construction site and has to rescue the girl who has been captured by the beast. It was one of my favorite games as a child, and after I write this I plan on digging out the Game Boy and playing a few rounds of my own. Wiebe wants to have the highest score, which was set in 1982 by Billy Mitchell, who scored almost 900,000 points. We follow Wiebe through his struggles, and through Mitchell's plans to ensure that he keeps the highest score. Mitchell plays subtle, but hard.
The information comes from the knowledge of video games that I learned about. I have never really made fun of "gamers," because truth be told they have a skill that I could only dream of having. And the old simple 80's arcade games are a favorite, but you cannot be fooled by the simplicity. They require an intense amount of logic and skill and memorization, and they certainly are not for everyone. If anything this film gave me a larger respect for them. There were also some fun facts. For instance, I did not know that there is an ending to every arcade video game. Eventually the game will run out of memory and a KILL SCREEN will come up, which will have the level start like normal and then randomly kill you character because it can't go on. The intensity comes from the battle between Steve and Billy, even though we all want Steve to win and everybody clearly wants him to win behind the camera. Steve is definitely the hero. Billy is easily the villain-portrayed as a pompous jerk (with a beautiful, large chested wife, which was actually hilarious), he never once plays Steve at the game and does not even say hello to him. (for some reason if they made a Hollywood version of this story I could see Peter Dinklage in the part).
"The King of Kong" plays like a film, which is rare for a documentary. It has an amount of intensity and fun that many narrative features lack nowadays. There is even a surprise twist ending that will have you smiling, and then an emotional final shot which will actually make you a little sad because you laughed at a joke relating to it just a minute earlier. This is the best documentary of the year, and easily surpasses the winning at the Oscars last year-sorry Al Gore, Steve Wiebe entertained me more. "The King of Kong" is set for a release date from Picture House in the middle of August, so look for it then.