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In the early 1980s, legendary Billy Mitchell set a Donkey Kong record that stood for almost 25 years. This documentary follows the assault on the record by Steve Wiebe, an earnest teacher from Washington who took up the game while unemployed. The top scores are monitored by a cadre of players and fans associated with Walter Day, an Iowan who runs Funspot, an annual tournament. Wiebe breaks Mitchell's record in public at Funspot, and Mitchell promptly mails a controversial video tape of himself setting a new record. So Wiebe travels to Florida hoping Mitchell will face him for the 2007 Guinness World Records. Will the mind-game-playing Mitchell engage; who will end up holding the record? —<email@example.com>
Turns into a startlingly fascinating character study.
This movie proves two things: 1), a documentary really can be about anything, and 2), movies aren't always what they're about, but how they are about, as Ebert puts it. This movie begins by retracing the early video game craze of the early 80's, and it focuses on the 20 year plus record-holder of the highest score ever for 'Donkey Kong'. His name is Billy Mitchell, and he's the Michael Jackson or the Wayne Gretzky of the video gaming world. We learn of other players who helped to define the era, one who no longer plays but gives much of his time away by refereeing video game competitions. Perhaps all that would've made for an interesting doc in it's own right, but in walks Steve Wiebe, a pretty normal guy with a wife and two kids, and we learn how he got into video gaming after a handful of setbacks in his life. As it becomes clear to us that Wiebe is an amazing player in his own right, politics enter the picture and we end up with a fascinating study about the nature of people that gets beyond simple competitiveness and digs a little deeper into the psyches of how we perceive our own selves. I'm so happy to have run into this title. You don't have to be interested or know anything about video games to really care about this movie.
- Sep 28, 2007
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