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Word Wars (2004)

Director: Eric Chaikin, Eric Chaikin, Julian Petrillo, more...
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Anchor Bay
Genre: Documentary, Sports, Quirky Characters
Running Time: 81 min.
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The directorial debut of filmmakers Eric Chaikin and Julian Petrillo, Word Wars: Tiles and Tribulations on the Scrabble Circuit is a humorous documentary look at the culture surrounding the National Scrabble Tournament. Focusing on four players in particular, the film details the intense competitions that lead up to the finals in San Diego, where each of the competitors hopes to take home the 25,000-dollar prize. Premiering at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, Word Wars screened as part of the documentary competition. ~ Matthew Tobey, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

wait; we're talking about Scrabble here, right? by alexjb November 28, 2005 - 10:28 PM PST
4 out of 4 members found this review helpful
i give this film huge points because there were times at which i forgot that it was a documentary. the filmmakers found not just four, but easily a dozen really lively 'characters' to turn what could be an incredibly dull topic into entertainment.

did you enjoy Best in Show? you'll love this- and *these* guys are REAL! a back-to-africa *chronic* pot smoker; a Noo Yawk Jew with an acid stomach (whose dad also competes); a whitebread smart-pill-popper whose clothes are riddled with holes; and a not-quite-post-Hippie worrying about his Chi being aligned. they're each hysterical in their own special way, and the fact that they all know each other makes it even more fun. then you throw in the side stories from the Washington Square Park regulars, the Milton Bradley suits and the score of lower-ranked players, and it's off the hook!

the film is very well edited in terms of the build up to the big tournament. personal vignettes and monologues interspersed with footage of actual games, strategems, and the politics of the player circuit. it doesn't get boring, and doesn't seem to choose favorites- the feeling is that you're observing much more than invading (except for that time the guy overslept and they woke him up...).

two thumbs way up!

Read "Word Freak" first--or instead of. by LeapKate July 18, 2005 - 11:10 AM PDT
2 out of 3 members found this review helpful
I read Stefan Fatsis' "Word Freak" in the last 6 months, and found it a wildly entertaining peek into obsession via high-level Scrabble tournament players. I rented "Word Wars" and admit I was fascinated to see these people from the book like "G.I. Joel" Sherman and smart-drug-popping Matt Graham in real life. However, I can't imagine that watching this film without having read the book (the film's credits acknowledge the Fatsis book as the main "inspiration" of the film) would be very interesting, and not nearly as enlightening. The book really delved into Scrabble strategy, study techniques, and the peculiarly focused intelligence it takes to make it as a Division 1 Scrabble Tournament Player--in part through the author's own growing skill level and obsession as the book progresses.

This film's approach to the 4 players it focuses on is less well-rounded and less respectful, and you don't learn much about what kind of mental acuity and hard work it takes to achieve this level of Scrabble playing. I think this film is a fun adjunct to the book, but probably not worth it to see on its own, or before reading "Word Freak."

Playing for Pay by talltale April 2, 2005 - 6:19 AM PST
1 out of 2 members found this review helpful
A sort of "Spellbound" for the Scrabble set, WORD WARS is a reasonably entertaining documentary that zeros in on four champion-class Scrabble players and watches them compete for a year in preparation for the championship in San Diego--which ends the film. There are interesting characters here; they surprise you (and grow on you) as you learn more about them. If at first the film's a little too cutesy and clever with its visual wordplay and such, eventually the moviemakers settle down to concentrate on these four guys who play for pay. There's a bit of suspense and some occasional welcome humor (the Scrabble book publishing story is the funniest). Overall, I think you'll find this one worth your hour and twenty minutes.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 6.77)
53 Votes
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