I don’t know if anyone else here has seen The King of Kong yet, but it’s a very entertaining documentary in limited release. (Visit the website for clips, info, and to see where it’s playing and will be playing soon.) I just saw it today during a visit to New York and enjoyed it immensely. Basically, it is the story of two men: Billy Mitchell, first perfect Pac-Man champ, video game expert extraordinaire, and judge for Twin Galaxies, once an arcade in Iowa, now the official world scorekeeper for all video games, and Steve Weibe, science teacher, outsider, and Donkey Kong fan. Weibe is planning to dethrone Mitchell’s long standing Donkey Kong record. What he doesn’t know is that Billy Mitchell is ruthless and out to protect his record at all costs. When Twin Galaxies teams up with Guinness to place video game world records in their 2007 edition, Mitchell and Weibe face off to see who is the true King of Kong.
Mitchell has complained about the way he has been depicted in the movie: he is painted as a hypocrite, always saying the best way to set a record is in person despite the fact he never shows up to challenge Weibe and submits a score by videotape of dubious origin. Since in one scene Billy Mitchell is depicted in a supermarket pushing aside other hot sauces to make more room for his own Rickey’s™ World Famous Hot Sauce, I don’t know if Billy can be trusted. But the film is very entertaining and filled with a lot of crazy things. At one point, it seems to be A Beautiful Mind, only with a gorilla, as Weibe goes on and on about the rhythms in everyday life and the rhythms and lines in Donkey Kong. At one point, it plays like a spy movie, only with a gorilla, as Billy Mitchell hires Doris Self, the 80-year-old QBert* champion, to hand-deliver a mysterious videotape to the Twin Galaxies judges. And it’s also damned funny: when I saw a scene in which one of the judges is watching Weibe’s official entry- which features his young son in the background shouting “Wipe my butt! Stop playing Donkey Kong!”, I thought, “This movie is pretty funny.” When one of Weibe’s pals and antoher champ who turns out to be one of Mitchell’s biggest rivals is captioned on-screen with the nickname “Mr. Awesome,” I thought to myself, “This movie is really funny.” When said fellow is then shown in a clip from a self-produced 1989 home video entitled Mr. Awesome’s Guide To Girls, I think, “This is quite possibly one of the funniest- and best- movies I’ve seen this year.” It’s entertaining, and a good example of the old adage “truth is stranger than fiction.” New Line Cinema has bought the rights to make a This is Spinal Tap-style mockumentary adaptation- I have no idea how they’ll be able to make it as interesting as this.