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REEL CRITIC:Film reveals king of gamers

September 05, 2007

Imagine a full-length documentary about goofball guys playing the classic arcade game Donkey Kong. Who would want to pay money to see that? I would and so should you, if you love video games or off-beat films about strange people.

“King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters” gets the high score for unintentional comedy and could go down as one of the great documentaries of recent memory.

It tells the true story of two grown men, Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe. Both claim to have set the high score on the 1981 vintage game Donkey Kong. Who is the real champion? Did somebody cheat? What’s the back story behind competitive gaming and who are the other players in this niche world of men that refuse to grow up?

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I was very curious to see this project since my first job was working at an arcade back in East Texas. Therefore, I’m very familiar with gamers and their unique lifestyle. It just boggles my mind that people are still playing these old games and fighting over who has the world record, but I’m glad somebody documented this important part of Americana.

I’ve played hundreds of video games and seen thousands of movies. “King of Kong” is the greatest combination of these two since Fred Savage starred in the 1989 movie “The Wizard.”

The beauty of “King of Kong” is the back-story of each player and what makes him tick. In real life, Billy is the villainous hot sauce mogul and Steve is the charming high school science teacher.

The director, Seth Gordon, creates the perfect good vs. evil scenario and the pacing feels like you’re playing an arcade game with each laugh counting as comedy points. The chuckles come quick and fast but I’m not sure the people in the movie will even realize that the audience is laughing at them. The entire production is played straight and the cameras are just along to record history.

Many of you may avoid “King of Kong” because you don’t play video games. That would be a mistake. I took six of my friends to a screening and even the guys without gaming experience found this film to be hilarious. No prior knowledge of Donkey Kong is required and the director does an excellent job of explaining the video game culture and that’s where the comedic highlights come from.

“King of Kong” makes an excellent date movie. After seeing the film, most girls would be happy to be seen with any guy besides the ones in the movie. Some people think I lead a strange life but compared to the players in the film, I should be on People’s most eligible bachelor list.

Matt’s advice, save your quarters and put down the joystick, because “King of Kong” will have you jumping in your seat with laughter.

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