RELEASED: Jan. 29, 2008
EAU CLAIRE — A middle-school science teacher and a videogame legend vie for the world record on the classic arcade game Donkey Kong in "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters" (2007), screening Jan. 31-Feb. 3 at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Seth Gordon's compelling, hilarious and universally acclaimed documentary will be shown at 6 and 8:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday in Davies Theatre.
"The King of Kong" is a story of personal ambition and triumph set around the rivalry between cocky videogame superstar Billy Mitchell and genial nice-guy Steve Wiebe, an unemployed dad who surpasses Mitchell's Donkey Kong record.
"You won't see a more gripping or compelling flick in a theater this year," said director Kevin Smith.
In 1982, 17-year-old Billy Mitchell was included in a Life magazine center spread featuring the world's greatest videogame champs. He would be named "Gamer of the Century" in the Guinness Book of World Records, having the highest scores on Donkey Kong and Centipede, and the perfect game of Pac-Man. His Donkey Kong score of 874,300 was thought to be unbreakable.
In 2003, 35-year-old family man Steve Wiebe of Seattle lost his job at Boeing. Before he eventually found work as a teacher, he found solace in playing Donkey Kong in his garage. Determined to beat the record, Wiebe perfected his game every night after his wife and kids went to bed and scored a thought-to-be-impossible one million points. A tidal wave of media coverage followed, and Wiebe's hometown celebrity began to spread. But in Hollywood, Florida, Billy Mitchell — hot-sauce mogul and gaming superstar — hatched a plan to reclaim his record.
In the months that followed Mitchell and Wiebe engaged in a cross-country duel for the high score to be included in the 2007 Guinness Book of World Records. The rivalry culminated in a face-off at the 2005 Classic Videogame and Pinball Tournament at New Hampshire's Funspot, the largest arcade in the world.
"Some folks refuse to believe that Seth Gordon's film about two men vying for the title of World's Greatest Donkey Kong Player could be a true story," wrote the Village Voice. "But, yeah, it's all true — every magical, exhilarating, infuriating, dumbfounding, jaw-dropping second of Gordon's miniature masterpiece."
"The King of Kong" was named one of the best documentaries of 2007 by critics including Roger Ebert, and newspapers including the Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle.
The 79-minute film is rated PG-13.