“King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters” Movie Review

This brilliant documentary purports to be about the elusive high score on the classic arcade game, Donkey Kong, but is in fact a classic tale of Good vs. Evil, Weak vs. Powerful, and Trimmed vs. Mullet. Billy Mitchell is widely recognized as one of the greatest classic video game players of all time as he recorded the high scores on games such as Centipede, Donkey Kong Jr. and the notoriously difficult Donkey Kong, a record which stood for nearly twenty years. Steve Wiebe is a normal dude who got laid off from his job at Boeing and with his extra time decided he’d like to beat that record.

But beating it wasn’t the problem.

Through a series of unfortunate and questionable events Wiebe’s broken record was taken away from him. Who would have thought an arcade game record holder had the power to influence judges, not operate by the rules and be such a weasel? We then follow Wiebe on his quest to beat the record and Mitchell in his quest to retain it. It made me happy, it made me sad, it enraged me.

One of the great themes of The Lord of the Flies is how the kids slowly get so wrapped up in their little world that they lose the bigger and more important perspective of the fact that they are stuck on an island in need of rescue. Similarly in this movie I was engrossed in the little world of arcade game culture/politics and I felt the weight of this clash for the Donkey Kong record. It’s IMPORTANT!!!

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16 thoughts on ““King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters” Movie Review

  1. There was only one main person in the documentary that I’d actually want to spend time with, but fortunately he was the protagonist. It was a great film, and featured some amazing hair and ties.

  2. Incidentally, a major event in the ongoing battle is taking place today. Check this out, but only if you’ve already seen the documentary.

  3. We saw this over the weekend and loved it. As one of my friends pointed out, it’s a movie that you could easily believe is a mockumentary if you didn’t know better. The characters are just so out there. In fact, if it was a mockumentary, I could see it being criticized as being too over-the-top. Yet it’s very authentic because these people are passionate about what they are doing. Of the people in the movie, only Steve Weibe’s wife seems to have a keen sense of the ridiculousness of the whole thing.

    I also whole-heartedly recommend this movie.

  4. Also, Steve Weibe’s daughter, whose comment in the car on the way to break the Guinness Book world record was priceless!

    The best review for this movie was in Vanity Fair, I think. The reviewer said that in times like these, this movie is an amazing commentary on man’s propensity to go to war, no matter how stupid the reason.

  5. My favorite doc in years. I love the part where that guy is giving the play by play of Wiebe’s game to Billy Michell over his cell.

  6. Sam,
    Yeah, the ties were classic. I like to show my patriotism through my tacky ties too!

    Alan,
    Wow, what a coincidence!

    Greg,
    You’re exactly right, if it were a mockumentary I’d likely say it was too over-the-top.

    Eric,
    I also loved how the dude was walking around the arcade telling everyone that if they wanted to see a break screen (or whatever they called it) that they should come look. Hilarious stuff.

  7. i saw this last summer and thought it was by far the funniest movie of the year, way more so than superbad, knocked up, or jackass two, all of which i really enjoyed.

    my favorite line from the film is from mr. awesome’s homemade 80’s video where he says something like “ain’t no dweeb ever got himself a piece of naught poontang by being sweet and sensitive!”

    christopher guest and co. only wish they could come up w/ characters as good as these people.

    also one interesting tidbit, the director, seth gordon, was one of the producers on greg whiteley’s new york doll.

  8. I feel like all my life, maybe I’ve been chumpetized.

    Also good, and very similar to this, is “Darkon” which is about live action role-players that have invented their own imaginary kingdom and fight over it every weekend. It’s worth checking out.

  9. Darkon has been playing on cable the last few weeks. It was actually enjoyable. It could easily mock the participants, and does portray them in a way that shows the humor, but also shows them in a symapthetic light (geek invert gains confidence sufficient to run succesful company). It is also the story of a large empire lording it over others, and how the lines between games/reality get blurred.

  10. I loved this movie, Rusty, and I agree: it made me happy, sad, outraged. It also made me very afraid for the protagonist and his nice, normal family. Both Mr. Awesome and Billy Mitchell seem like people who could stalk/kill somebody at some point.

    An aside: today, while I was on the computer, my four year old started yelling, “Mo-om! Wipe my bum!” But at least we weren’t being recorded.

  11. I thought that the special features on the DVD make Billy Mitchell a somewhat more sympathetic character (if not a little pathetic). The story works better with him as the villain, though.

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