google ad

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Fantastic Fest: Cannon Arm and The Arcade Quest Review: The Best Video Game Doc This Year

Cannon Arm and The Arcade Quest
is a combination of Napoleon Dynamite + Wes Anderson + Werner Herzog. The movie takes you on a fantastical journey on one man's, no, a group of friend's quest to have their always-smiling-long-haired-friend Kim, beat the world record for playing the arcade classic Gyruss. (Kim is trying to beat his own record of 49 hours and make it to 100) Director Mads Hedegaard, who didn't even know much about video games going in, gives us a story more molded around friendship than trying to attain the high score. Although, we do actually see Kim trying to beat his own record.

A combination of everything I told you at the top, we get a doc that seemingly blends the best of so many films and the style of some favorite filmmakers. Mads Hedegaard, director, constantly narrates and explains what's going on like Herzog. Telling us the tale of friends at the Bip Bip Bar in Denmark, so quirky and different is this group of guys you would swear that is was a Wes Anderson film. Then, with the punk look only a 55 year-old grandpa can give off with long luscious hair ,you'd think you're looking at an older and wiser Napoleon Dynamite. Kim "Cannon Arm" might be the central figure of the film, but the film and him would be nothing without his main compadres Carsten and Dyst. And underneath them in the film's hierarchy, other friends that trickle in and out, that all want to help Kim get the high score. And they are characters unto themselves.

Hedegaard knows this and so we don't just follow Kim on his arcade quest, but see how his friends plan it out for him all while they also having their own world records for arcade games. Carsten, the big, mustachioed man, loves Bach and we see how his love of music theory connects to trying to get the kill screen in Donkey Kong. Dyst, shaved head with a long beard, is a world champion of Bubble Bobble and writes poetry. These two are portrayed as Kim's closes friends. And we see them together or find out what they're up to, the most often.

We have more friends that come and go and that would be my only real criticism of the film. I lost track of all of them and maybe so those the director. Mads, so delightfully shares what's going on by straight up telling us or showing us with fun visuals, but might have missed out showing off a more comprehensive friend chart or putting up the names of Kim's other pals a little more. The dude has a lot of dudes to hang out with.
The only other criticism is a question about a place. When some of Kim's friend's leave to go to a "moist bar", which doesn't make much sense as they're in a bar arcade already, we don't go with them. Not sure, what that is. People in Denmark might know, but not me. Keep googling it and getting cake recipes. I'm guessing it might be something dirty, so be careful looking it up.
Update: I asked the press for the film about the moist bar dilemma and they got back to me with what a "moist bar" refers to.
"It's a catch phrase the guys have come up with themselves. Basically, it refers to beer/alcohol. So 'moist' is basically 'great' or some other positive thing. And the moist bar they are referring to is a beer bar (a bar dedicated to lots of different beers from micro breweries)." -Thanks Austin

After training, never seeing any bit of Kim's biological family and learning why Kim wants to beat his own score... Oh, and the pompous jerk-tude of Billy Mitchell for a cameo. We see Kim attempt the ordeal of playing an arcade machine for 100 hours. And any world record attempt doesn't look fun, but it looks doable when surrounded by such great friends.

So many recent game docs have come out, going over how arcades are dying, game stores going away, the big fights between  console companies, then communities being rebuilt and arcade gaming remaining a part of the world. This one is all about the player and his friends. These friends met at an arcade and became friends because of it. And they stay quirky, strange friends as only sitcom-like characters can. But, what am I saying, it reminded me of my friends. 
It's dangerous to go alone, take a friend to see it.

Currently on the film festival circuit, we'll tell you when you can stream it or see it on the a screen near you.