What made more money than the entire American movie industry through the 50s and 60s? Pinball. Special When Lit rediscovers the lure of a lost pop icon. A product of the mechanical and ... See full summary »
What made more money than the entire American movie industry through the 50s and 60s? Pinball. Special When Lit rediscovers the lure of a lost pop icon. A product of the mechanical and electrical age, the American invention swept the world and defined cool. Now it is relegated to a nostalgic footnote deserving a better fate. Joining the fans, collectors, designers and champion players from across the globe who share a world many of us didn't know still existed. Written by
Wannabe King of Kong unfortunately has to resort to cheap potshots
At times, Special When Lit seems to be looking for the answer to the question of whether or not pinball is dead. At other times during this slow-paced pseudo-documentary it seems its purpose was tacked on, and the film is simply a random slice of pinball life. My guess is that in early test screenings the general response was "It's kind of interesting and funny, but it doesn't really have a point."
They also felt they had to imitate King of Kong by finding people to make fun of, but where KoK ultimately has a soft spot for its protagonists and outcasts, too much of Special feels mean-spirited. It takes its shots - nay, it goes out of its way to take its shots - and then the film switches subjects entirely, looking for fresh meat.
Mostly, Special just plays like a eulogy to Pinball, and I don't know how many people would pay to watch a eulogy no matter how many flashing lights and fast edits. The interviews of industry notables are mostly confined to events that happened decades ago, reminiscing about "the good old days". But the film never truly challenges its subjects with how they might envision a better future. Maybe the answer is still a bleak one but Special doesn't try very hard.
Once you get passed the so-so interviews and cheap humor, the film has an interesting segment on competitive play that is probably the most even-handed in the film. It focuses on the yearly pinball championship held near Pittsburg and the action is addicting. Several top competitors are interviewed and provide an insight into how it's possible to play a game with skill and consistency that many consider a matter of luck.
Could pinball ever make a comeback? The film just seems interested in why that could never happen. Yet at the iPad's launch one of the top selling titles was a pinball game, and the same company sold three million units of similar pinball titles on the iPhone. It's not a failure of Special When Lit to see possibilities - one gets the feeling it just isn't interested in them.
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