THE KING OF KONG:
A FISTFUL OF QUARTERS
© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.

to 1948 and the first computer video game to
1962, it was in the 1970s and 80s that the craze
hit a peak, with Pac-Man and Donkey Kong,
among two of the top titles. In 1982,
Life
magazine featured a photo shoot of the top
gamers, including one Billy Mitchell, a young
man who eventually came to hold several
world's records and the title "Gamer of the
Century." One of Mitchell's claims to fame was
achieving the first perfect score in Pac-Man and
the high record for both Centipede and Donkey
Kong. Most in the competitive gaming field
believed that Mitchell's records would never be
challenged.

Then along came Steve Wiebe in 2003. After
losing his job at Boeing, this father of two
decided to try to break the record and
videotaped himself on a home game. When he
submitted the tape, though, he opened a host
of problems that are detailed in
THE KING OF
KONG: A POCKFUL OF QUARTERS
.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking: a
film about video game players? Well, who knew
that a movie about crossword fanatics
(
WORDPLAY) would be so good? [It's perhaps
not a coincidence that both of these films had
their New York debuts at the Tribeca Film
Festival, albeit in different years.] Trust me on
this,
THE KING OF KONG, directed by Seth
Gordon, is an enjoyable and fascinating movie.
Billy Mitchell and Pac-Man girls in
THE KING OF KONG A FISTFUL OF QUARTERS
© 2007 Picturehouse
L to R: Walter Day and Steve Wiebe in
THE KING OF KONG A FISTFUL OF QUARTERS.

What helps the film is that there appear to be
good guys and bad guys. Wiebe emerges as a
mild-mannered, decent guy who is willing to
spend hard-earned money to travel across the
country to compete in person. Mitchell comes
across as an arrogant and ungracious individual
who refuses to concede defeat.

videotape is disqualified. One of the reasons is
that Wiebe had contact with an archrival of
Mitchell's. Oh, and did I mention that Mitchell
was also one of the people tapped to judge the
tape? It's a little like asking George W. Bush to
count the ballots for the 2000 election.

Seth Gordon has shaped the material in a
fascinating and dramatic manner. I never would
have suspected that watching someone play a
video game could be so fraught with drama. In
fact, this documentary has reportedly been
optioned to be turned into a feature film.

But why wait? See
THE KING OF KONG when it
opens in theaters. Not unlike the sleeper hit
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, this breezy and
engaging documentary has a great deal to say
about the American fixation on winning and
losing.


Rating:                 B+
Running time:       79 mins.


Viewed at Magno Review Two