But, yeah, it's all true — every magical, exhilarating, infuriating, dumbfounding, jaw-dropping second of Seth Gordon's film about two men vying for the title of World's Greatest Donkey Kong Player. It's a miniature masterpiece.
Ostensibly about Mitchell, who began his reign as Donkey Kong world champ in 1982, King of Kong is as much about the perils of hubris and the price of heartbreak. Mitchell became champ as a kid, piling up nearly 900,000 points on the arcade machine. He has spent two decades growing a chicken-wing-sauce business, primping his hair and pimping his fame as the so-called "Videogame Player of the Century," under the banner of Twin Galaxies, the scorekeeper for arcade world records.
But one man emerges to challenge Mitchell: Redmond, Washington, science teacher Steve Wiebe, a husband and father of two whose life thus far has been defined by his failures. What he has going for him: his high school sweetheart and a Donkey Kong machine in the basement.
By 2003, the challenger becomes champion: Wiebe unseats Mitchell, for whom losing is unfathomable and unacceptable. How Mitchell and his Twin Galaxies cronies screw Wiebe is at the heart of The King of Kong, which would play like dark comedy were there not such cruelty at its core.
No doubt Gordon has streamlined a complicated narrative. But there's no disputing the grace and charm of the filmmaking, illustrated in a scene during which Wiebe marks up the game's screen with a grease pencil to diagram the bounces of the barrels. Wiebe provides the pounding soundtrack on his 5-year-old son's kit. It's thrilling, this scene and this story about two men trying to get to a girl held captive by an ape stuck in a video-game machine.