Sunday, June 15, 2008

The King of Kong

The King of Kong is a documentary about warring factions of video game nerds. Billy Mitchell has held the Donkey Kong record (and the same hairstyle) since the early 80's, and when Steve Wiebe, humble teacher and father of two, tries to beat that record, all nerd hell breaks loose. The record has consumed Billy’s life for the last 25 years, and it has shaped him into the pompous, feather-haired warrior that he is today. Everyone in the competitive video game world knows Billy, and no one would dare beat him at Donkey Kong. Steve Wiebe, after years of real-life failure, decides that he can beat that record. But Steve doesn’t belong to that world, and he doesn’t know what he’s gotten himself into. Hell hath no fury like a nerd scorned.
The documentary is entertaining, rather than informative. The film starts with a brief history of Billy Mitchell and how he achieves his golden god status. We meet Steve and his family, learn of his motivations, and the story begins. With the exception of interviews breaking in every so often, the film follows a narrative. The camera is there for every live moment.
Steve’s story is a great one. It’s hilarious and heartbreaking. The people he meets are so over the top, you’d think their parts were written for the screen. Yet, these are real people. This documentary wins due to the subject matter. My favorite is Brian Kuh, one of Billy’s cronies. He is so envious of Billy that he follows him like a puppy. He is constantly in defense of him and constantly doing his dirty work. He is the typical sidekick to a super villain; like Otis to Lex Luther, Muttly to Dick Dasterdly, and Grimace to Ronald McDonald. It is unbelievable that these aren’t cleverly written characters. These are real people in all their ridiculous glory. So real, in fact, that if you go on the IMDB message boards, you will likely find a few Billy Mitchell cronies lurking around, defending his actions in the movie.
This documentary is entertaining and very funny. You don’t even have to like video games to enjoy this movie. I was never a big fan of Donkey Kong, Pac Man, or any arcade game for that matter. My video game experience started at home with the Atari. Even if you're Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds, and would like nothing more than to destroy nerds, you will still appreciate the battle between Billy and Steve. The story is a classic one and epic on a smaller scale. I bet you could even get your girlfriend to watch - just don't squeal when they show the legendary "kill-screen" at the end of Donkey Kong. Nerd!

4 barrels of fun!

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