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Overall Rating
4.29

Awesome57.14%
Worth A Look: 14.29%
Average: 28.57%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

2 reviews, 9 user ratings


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King of Kong, The
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by Eugene Novikov

"Like a Chris Guest movie with real people."
3 stars

Screened at the 2007 South by Southwest Film Festival: Playing a bit like a real-life version of a Christopher Guest mockumentary, The King of Kong chronicles a rivalry between two world-class Donkey Kong (that's the old-school arcade version, folks) high-scorers with equal parts amusement and condescension. Director Seth Gordon loves to have us laugh at these video game fanatics' self-importance and deadpan seriousness, which is fair enough, but the failure or refusal to provide any sort of humanizing counterpoint (except as respects Steve Wiebe, the putative hero of the story) reeks of disdain. As such, the movie becomes a bit uncomfortable -- a bit like ripping on the nerds in the high school cafeteria. On one hand, these people seem happy where they are; on the other, what are we to make of the guy who takes pride in sitting through a tape of a possibly record-setting four-day Nibbler session in order to check its bona fides?

What remains interesting is watching Wiebe, whom the film takes pains to portray as balanced and normal, if inhibited, navigate this world of single-minded obsessives. He unhesitatingly plays the game, taunting his competitor to the camera, expressing his outrage at other gamers' questionable tactics, and traveling across the country to make his world record official; at the same time, he maintains a dignified detachment, and at points seems to use his wife as a counterpoint to the socially disengaged lives of his video game compatriots (though he is far too nice a guy to ever verbalize this). His degree of self-awareness is such a stark contrast to everyone around him, that it's actually kind of moving to watch.

It's also fascinating, I must admit, to see the self-contained little world the gamers have created for themselves. We see a lot of a guy named Walter Day, who founded an organization called Twin Galaxies to maintain the classic gaming record books and proclaimed himself the "sport's" official referee; we never quite learn who he is or how he makes his living, but when he compares the rivalry between Wiebe and long-time Donkey Kong record-holder Billy Mitchell to Yankees-Red Sox, he is absolutely sincere. And Mitchell himself sees his exploits in the gaming universe as the rough equivalent of waging a worldwide military campaign.

So there's plenty of entertainment value to The King of Kong -- records fall, heroes rise, and a phalanx of nerds is paraded around for our amusement. I laughed, but laughing at them (for that's precisely what the film asks us to do) left a bit of a sour taste. Applauding Wiebe's eventual success was considerably more satisfying. The King of Kong has been tapped for a "based on a true story" fictionalization, and I have a feeling that at one remove from the real people involved, this tale will work better.

(Reprinted from Filmblather.com)`

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=15878&reviewer=419
originally posted: 03/14/07 02:28:08
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Slamdance Film Festival For more in the 2007 Slamdance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Florida Film Festival For more in the 2007 Florida Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Independent Film Festival of Boston For more in the 2007 Independent Film Festival of Boston series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2007 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/15/09 Shaun Wallner Awesome Film. 5 stars
10/01/08 Charles Tatum Wonderful, edited to perfection 5 stars
8/05/08 Bnorm Dont give a shit bout classic arcade high scores but this was good nerd drama was hilarious 5 stars
4/03/08 Butt Interesting character studies and a view of the vintage gaming subculture nuts. 4 stars
3/28/08 Zachary Pinkham Fantastic movie, recommended for any gamer. 5 stars
3/02/08 Theresa Wagner great documentary, loved the addictiveness of video game competition 4 stars
1/25/08 Oz Best doc of the year. 5 stars
10/24/07 William Goss One of the most riveting underdog stories to come along in quite some time. 4 stars
10/09/07 Shawn One of the best docs ever! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  17-Aug-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 29-Jan-2008

UK
  N/A

Australia
  28-Feb-2008


Directed by
  Seth Gordon

Written by
  (documentary)

Cast
  Steve Wiebe
  Billy Mitchell
  Walter Day
  Todd Rogers
  Steve Sanders
  Doris Self



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