Imagine mockumentary master Christopher Guest took the same withering wit and knack for memorable, lovably flawed characters he deployed in This Is Spinal Täp and Best in Show, and applied it to the competitive retro video-game scene. Now wrap your head around this -- Seth Gordon’s engaging debut feature King of Kong The isn’t a fictional film toying with documentary devices. It’s the real deal, and every bit as absurdly comical and surprisingly touching as Guest’s best efforts.
Founded in 1952, New Hampshire’s Funspot is the second largest amusement arcade in America, but it can claim the number-one spot as far as its amazing assembly of classic arcade video games goes. And coming in at number one is what matters to the too-quirky-to-be-fictional individuals who populate Gordon’s film. For instance, there’s the pompous, patriotic cheeseball Billy Mitchell, heir to a hot-sauce fortune and holder of the title of “Video Game Player of the Century.” Of course, that was the last century, and Mitchell’s grip on Donkey Kong high-score supremacy is challenged by Steve Wiebe, the sort of nice guy who always finishes last. Along the road to the pair’s inevitable showdown, we meet the rather mystical master score-keeper Walter Day, Mitchell’s protégé (or puppet?) Brian Kuh, and Roy “Mr. Awesome” Shildt, whose mentoring of Wiebe masks a vendetta against his nemesis, Mitchell.
Like Air Guitar Nation of earlier this year, The King of Kong is only superficially about the particulars of a ludicrous subculture that bewilders all but the most obsessive fanatics. Rather, it uses the inherent drama of an official competition and the stimulating visual environment its topic provides to explore and illuminate a wide variety of fascinating personalities, and how they interact with one another. Laugh-out-loud funny, lump-in-your-throat poignant and white-knuckle exciting, Gordon’s The King of Kong scores high. No wonder New Line is currently developing a fictional film based on Gordon’s delightful doc.
“While it needs to be threaded by a capable hand, even Donkey Kong can be woven into a compelling canvas that examines the comically-profound idiosyncrasies that drive human competition” - James Ransom-Wiley, JOYSTIQ
“Characters and plot dynamics make this documentary a winner” - Richard James Havis, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
“One of those rare documentaries that is both totally engaging and completely entertaining” - Quint, AIN’T IT COOL
WINNER: Public Prize, Gold Fantasia, Best Documentary, Fantasia 2007
Director: Seth Gordon
Screenplay: Seth Gordon
Cast: Billy Mitchell
Producers: Ed Cunningham
Distributor: Alliance Atlantis VivaFilm