March 5, 2008
This film was recommended by Squat and it turned out to be well worth the investigation. The stuff of gladiatorial battle is present in this film: good versus evil, right versus wrong, nerd versus…super-nerd? At any rate, it’s a more entertaining showdown than most fictional movies can muster. The King of Kong is the saga of Steve Wiebe, a Redmond, Washington middle-school teacher who sets a new record in Donkey Kong, only to see his accomplishment challenged by the grand poobahs of the gaming establishment. And if you don’t know how pernickety the grand poobahs of the gaming establishment can be, well, one of the pleasures of this movie is finding out about this collection of oddballs. It seems Wiebe has toppled a score that has stood since 1982, when eminent “Gamer of the Century” and hot-sauce mogul Billy Mitchell set it, and he isn’t too happy about being overthrown. A black-mulleted showboat, Mitchell provides the perfect counterpoint to Wiebe’s mild-mannered family man attitude, and the smaller fish around him are no less colorful. This is one of those movies you watch in delighted disbelief, marveling that such people exist – and that they gladly allowed themselves to be filmed. Director Seth Gordon does an important thing in presenting this world of eccentrics: he doesn’t mock them, or provide editorial nudging; he simply lets them be. The result is an ingratiating classic.