Netflix this: ‘King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters’

I’ve recommended this as a must-rent, although I did not watch it on DVD. King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters was on G4 the other night, so I DVR’d it (more on the DVR as a Godsend later). G4 will rebroadcast the film on June 13, so if you have G4 on your cable/dish, I highly recommend DVR-ing it. If you don’t, add this to your queue.

SteveWhat’s it about? King of Kong is a documentary about Billy Mitchell, the record holder for the Donkey Kong arcade game, and Steve Wiebe, a junior high teacher who’s determined to dethrone Billy from his title. You might think a documentary about classic video game enthusiasts (read: nerds) would be pretty dull, but King of Kong sucks you in by its compelling leads–the fact that they’re real people makes them all the more compelling.

Billy’s the Tom Cruise of the classic arcade community–extremely cocky, very intense, slightly creepy; Steve’s a mild-mannered guy–his life has been filled with some devastating failures. Steve’s attempt to break the high score record on the Donkey Kong arcade game causes quite a stir. Playing on his own full-size arcade version of the video game, Steve not only passes Billy’s high score of 874,000, he shatters it–he crosses 1,000,000 (something thought to be impossible).

Attempts from Billy loyalists within the community to disqualify Steve’s high score prompts him to compete in various tournaments to prove his skills in a public forum. Things don’t go according to plan–some twists along the way make for some compelling drama and unintentional comedy.

What’s good about it: This is one of those you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up stories that made me clap and cheer at the end of the film. Steve is an endearing underdog protagonist and Billy is a sly, calculating foil. The film will give you butterflies in your stomach as Steve fights for his place in history. King of Kong is also reminiscent of Star Wars and old westerns, where things are black and white–there’s no gray in this story.

What’s bad about it: One off-putting sexual reference; some mild language.

Perfect for: Anyone who loves to root for the underdog.

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