THE KING OF KONG: A FISTFUL OF QUARTERS directed by Seth Gordon, with Steve Wiebe, Billy Mitchell and Walter Day. An Alliance release. 79 minutes. Opens Friday (December 7) at the Bloor. Rating: NNNN
I belong to a group that meets annually in Vegas for poker and other things. It all emerged 15 years ago out of a group of programmers and denizens of the old Usenet bulletin boards, so as a group we have a very high geek quotient.
I'm generally very happy that the annual Star Trek convention hits Vegas the same time we do, because there's at least one group in town whose ass we could collectively kick.
I think I've found another - guys obsessed with classic video games like Pac-Man, Missile Command and Donkey Kong. I was always more of a pinball guy, but I put in my time on Pac-Man and Galaxian and, after about six months, had to uninstall Tetris from my PC because I played too often.
But I never quite got the point of putting in that time on something that didn't allow you to actually win anything, even free games.
In The King Of Kong: A Fistful Of Quarters, director Seth Gordon takes on the quest of Steve Wiebe to seize the world record for Donkey Kong from Billy Mitchell, who set the mark in 1982 and has held it ever since.
This sounds like a snooze, except that Gordon has found himself a black comedy about secrecy, emotional dysfunction and people who fight intensely because the stakes are so small. When your 25-year-old Donkey Kong title is your claim to fame, you will fight dirty to keep it. It's a sad and funny story about what happens to you in adult life when you peak in high school.
Mitchell acts like a hero - he has acolytes, for goodness sake. Gordon's hero, however, is Steve Wiebe, who after losing his job decides to bolster his self-esteem by putting a Donkey Kong machine in his garage and going after the record, rather than, apparently, going out and looking for a job. His wife, Nicole, does not immediately kick his sorry ass to the curb.
King Of Kong has a very compact running time, and Gordon might have filled in a bit here - was Donkey Kong and babysitting all he did for a couple of years? If so, I nominate his wife for sainthood.
Gordon has made short films and done camera work on documentaries liek Shut Up And Sing, so King Of Kong looks decent for something shot largely on handheld video.