King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007)
Donkey Kong doc is a barrel of fun
The recent Academy Awards ceremony saw a battle for the coveted Best Documentary statue between films dealing with the following subject matter:
– Interrogation and torture of suspected terrorists
– The lack of an exit strategy for the United States’ invasion of Iraq
– Problems with the public health care system
All of these are pretty depressing subjects that don’t really make for an enjoyable viewing experience. You know what does make for an enjoyable viewing experience? An ape throwing barrels at a plumber, who is trying to save a princess. That’s exactly what this week’s film, King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.
I’m sure you have all played the classic game Donkey Kong. If not, you have lived a sad, deprived life. Perhaps you should stop reading newspapers and head to your local arcade ASAP to remedy the situation.
King of Kong tells the tale of two very different men who share one common goal – to be recognized as the world’s greatest Donkey Kong player. But this isn’t just a film about winning at a video game – it is a film about winning at life.
In 1982, a young man named Billy Mitchell scored 874,300 points on Donkey Kong, a record many never thought would be broken. After establishing similar records on games such as Centipede and Donkey Kong Jr., Billy was widely believed to be the greatest gamer of all-time.
Billy doesn’t just succeed in the world of pixels and joysticks – he succeeds in the business world, running a thriving hot sauce company. Billy never misses an opportunity to tell people how great he is, and this really left this viewer waiting to see someone knock him off his high horse.
Enter Steve Wiebe, a family man who turned to Donkey Kong after losing his job. I probably would have just started drinking, but that’s just me. Steve finds out about Billy Mitchell’s record, and makes it his mission to topple it.
King of Kong, though a documentary, is very reminiscent of one of the great fictional stories of all-time – Rocky. Billy Mitchell’s arrogant demeanor is quite similar to that exhibited by Apollo Creed in the first couple of Rocky pictures.
Likewise, Steve Wiebe reminds me of Rocky Balboa. Steve has never realized his potential in life – he was once a star athlete, but injuries put an end to that. His life has been one big setback after another. Even after he beats Billy Mitchell’s legendary score one day on the Donkey Kong machine he has in his garage, politics get in the way of his accomplishment being recognized. Just like Rocky, Wiebe won’t stay down, and eventually gets his moment in the sun.
I can say without a shadow of a doubt that King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is the finest documentary that has even been produced. While on the surface the goals of the men portrayed in this film may seem silly, the passion of all those involved really helps you to understand their desire to compete. In the end, we learn that if you dedicate yourself to a goal, and neglect your family enough, dreams do come true.