The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

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king of kong
Billy Mitchell — a legend in his own [insert word here]
I’m so glad this King Kong movie can take the bad taste out of my mouth left by Jack Black and Adrien Brody from their King Kong a few years ago.

This is a documentary about the best Donkey Kong players in the world. Don’t worry. You’ll like it, even if you’re not a gamer. The only video game I played in arcades growing up was Dig Dug or Space Invaders. Just having the ghosts surrounding me in Pac-Man was too stressful.

In this Seth Gordon documentary, we get sucked in because of such fascinating characters. There’s the bad guy – Billy Mitchell. He’s a tall, good looking dude, with a gorgeous wife (that has big breast implants). He wears leather, has a beard, and looks like he’d either be cast as the devil in a movie – or the bassist for Supertramp.

There’s the good guy – Steve Wiebe. He was a baseball star, and he just lost his job as a middle-school science teacher. He might have the worst luck of anyone.Watching his wife talk about all the things he did and failed at is both hysterical and heartbreaking.

For some reason, he decides he’s going to make a run at the Guinness Book of Records mark for highest score at Donkey Kong (who knew they kept such statistics).

There are other characters. We have the 80-year-old lady that wants to stick with a game more her speed – Q*bert.

There’s Walter Day – a nerdy referee (yes, they have refs at these competitions). He sings folk songs, and is kind of stuck in the middle. He loves basking in the glow that is Billy Mitchell, but he appreciates how nice and genuine a character Wiebe is. Folks, Hollywood couldn’t write more interesting characters if they tried.

Wiebe is a science teacher who recently lost his job. He has a nice wife and two kids. Mitchell is rich, thanks to his big chain of BBQ sauces. And if that isn’t reason enough to dislike him, we see videos he’s sent in of himself breaking records that look like they’re edited. You’ll find yourself squinting at the screen and examining this as if it were the Zapruder tape.

There’s also a break-in at Wiebe’s house. You see, the minions that don’t want Mitchell dethroned, have reason to believe that the Donkey Kong machine Wiebe has in his garage was doctored to make it easier to play. They want proof (who even knew you could do that to a video game?).

There’s only one way Wiebe can clear his name and prove he’s the real deal – he can play in front of people and prove he’s that good. So, off to Funspot, complete with fans and referees. You’ll be watching and cheering him on more than you did anybody underdog you’ve seen in any sports film. I promise.

Spliced in between all these various interviews, we see the crowd gathering for pizza, as Mitchell pulls up in a limo, talks to somebody in a back-alley in a shady fashion. It’s even funnier when he walks into the place and doesn’t acknowledge Wiebe’s presence. I swear, my girlfriend and I kept looking at each other laughing hysterically during the entire thing.

When this movie was over, I wanted to put more quarters in and continue on. This gets an easy A.

 

Interview with Billy Mitchell.

 

When you’re a movie critic, the studios will sometimes call you and ask if you’d like to interview the director or star of a film. My interview with Billy Mitchell came about in a completely different way. My girlfriend, so enthralled with this film, went out and bought some of his BBQ sauces (they were pretty good). She called the 800 phone number on the back, which proved one thing. Movie studios are smart to use phone numbers like 555-1212 in a film, because knuckleheads will just call them and ask for George Clooney. Anyway, she didn’t leave a message. When I came home and listened to the messages on our machine, I heard Billy Mitchell calling back, saying somebody called from that number. When he called back the next day, I then worked up the courage to call him back, to tell him why my girlfriend called. He laughed, and we ended up talking for an hour. I immediately grabbed my note bad to scribble things down. Yet as I sit here to write this, I can’t find it anywhere.

 

Here are a few of the things I found out. Mitchell isn’t as bad a guy as he appeared in the movie. Obviously Seth Gordon had some fun with edits and playing him up as the villain.

 

Mitchell told me about the charity work he’s done. One of those things involved him meeting a kid that wanted to meet him through the Make-a-Wish Foundation, a company I volunteer with. He’s done this on a few occasions, and on one, gave the kid a leather Pac-Man jacket (yes, he holds records for scores in other video games, too).

He talked about being treated like a rock star in other countries. He told me all about his BBQ sauces. I enjoyed talking with him. Now, all that being said…don’t enjoy hating him any less when you watch the movie.

 
 

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