Steve Wiebe, Billy Mitchell, Walter Day
Adam Wood: I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs. I play video games…which I think is FAR superior an addiction than any of those other ones.
A documentary about people who are obsessed with breaking high scores on classic video games. Specifically we follow a more average guy, Steve Wiebe, who has always wanted to be the best at something, so he starts mastering the game of Donkey Kong. Unfortunately for him, it’s not as easy to earn respect in the video game world as he hoped.
This is a highly highly entertaining movie that seems to simultaneously have a soft spot for its subjects, while also poking a bit of fun at them. Steve Wiebe is just as obsessed with the game as any of the other high score challengers, but his kind, non-confrontational personality is a stark contrast to the conniving, just-plain-weird personalities of many of the other gamers. Steve has always tried to be the best at something in life, but has come up short in sports, music, and business. This is his chance to be the absolute best in the world at something, and the poor guy just seems so down on his luck that you can’t help rooting for him.
Billy Mitchell is clearly portrayed as the villain, but really he’s just an insecure guy whose only claim to fame is his high scores. With Donkey Kong as the last remaining one to not be broken, he’ll do anything – except play Weibe in person – to retain his title as the best. Mitchell is a god among these people, and he even has little henchmen doing his bidding for him. I wondered at times if some of the things he was saying and doing were just because he was being filmed, or if it was even planned out by the filmmakers. I would hope that’s not the case. Or, maybe that would be more comforting, knowing that this guy isn’t really like that in real life.
This is the way a documentary about a subject like this should be done. It’s fun, funny, energetic, there’s a hero and a villain, and even some touching moments with Steve Weibe’s family. In fact, Steve’s daughter, Jillian, has what is probably one of the funniest, yet truthful, moments in the entire movie when talking to her dad about his attempt at officially breaking the Guinness Book of World Records Donkey Kong score:
“I never knew that the Guinness World Record Book was so… I never knew it was so important…some people sort of ruin their lives to be in there.”
At the end of many classic video games, there’s something called a “kill screen”. It’s when the computer has run out of memory and can’t keep running the game, so something weird happens. In Donkey Kong, Mario just automatically dies after 5 seconds on the level. Interesting, no?
10 – .7 for a few moments that seemed a little inauthentic – .3 for maybe concentrating on Walter Day a little too much and losing some momentum in Steve’s story = 9.0