Word Wars: Tiles & Tribulations on the Scrabble Game Circuit is a thoroughly engrossing documentary taking viewers into the world of competitive Scrabble playing.
Directors Eric Chaikin and Julian Petrillo take a myopic look into the obsession that rules the lives of the four people they follow in this film. The eccentric, but not atypical, characters are nerdy, unemployed, Mylanta-addicted "G.I." Joel Sherman (the G.I. is gastrointestinal); the somewhat less clichéd, less angry black man Marlon Hill; the pill-popping (supposed brain enhancers) Matt Graham; and the 2001 defending national champion Joe Edley. What a cast of characters to follow. Combining this whole mix of dysfunctional personalities into one documentary makes for a heck of a good time, whether you like Scrabble or not.
The story shifts back and forth between the four guys, showing their camaraderie and the lengths to which they go to sate their obsession. It also goes back to Washington Square Park in New York City a couple of times, where a bunch of colorful sorts are quickly profiled in their penny-a-point games. The story shifts by months as the guys get closer and closer to the national championship game in San Diego. It starts out 9 months out and quickly jumps to 6 months, then 3 months, then 6 weeks, then finally reaches the championship, where G. I. Joel battles it out in the final game to win the top prize of twenty-five thousand dollars.
The eighty-minute run time is appropriate for the material. Any longer, and you'd go bonkers with all the words they remember and come up with. The DVD extras are a little light, but that doesn't take away from the fun - and somewhat disturbing - look at what goes into the making of a Scrabble champion.
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