Ok, so I have to start this review with a confession. I love Monopoly. I realize that this confession will not necessarily be popular among many of my readers who wish to disassociate themselves as much as possible from the game. However, after growing up playing it, I still enjoy the game as an adult. I have many, many other games now, so it doesn't hit my table often - but when it does, I still enjoy this classic. So, when I heard about the Monopoly DVD documentary Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story, I was very intrigued.
Ok, here's the next confession - I review board games; not DVDs. In fact, this will be my first DVD review, but as long as DVDs continue to be made about board games (which I think my readers will find interesting), I'll continue to review them.
The Feature - "The Monopoly Story"Whereas this is called "The Monopoly Story", I think it would be better titled, "Chronicles of the 2009 Monopoly World Championship." The film features several hopeful competitors who are attempting to win first the U.S. National Monopoly Championship (for which you win approximately $20,000 - the amount of money found in a game of Monopoly), and then the 2009 World Monopoly Championship. And, along the way, they also give you more information about the game itself.
When it comes to interviewing authority figures within the Monopoly world, Under the Boardwalk is unmatched. Some of the people interviewed include the Monopoly world tournament judge for the last few decades, Charles Darrow's (the inventor of Monopoly) grandson, two U.S. Monopoly champions, the original Monopoly World Champion, Hasbro's Monopoly brand manager, and many others. Moreover, the film does a very good job of highlighting something about these people - they are normal people that happen to have a passion for the game of Monopoly. Regularly, when interviewing them, the film will tell you their names and professions. The down side of this is that, until later in the film, you don't realize how much of an authority figure they are! (Plus, knowing the authorities that are involved in the movie helps reassure you that the information you are receiving is truly factual.)
Because the competitors are presented as normal people, Under the Boardwalk does a very good job of bringing out the personalities (and even rivalries!) within the world of tournament Monopoly. You have characters that truly train, study, and practice for the tournaments. Then, you have people that enjoy Monopoly, but primarily play it with family. You get to follow a 6th grade teacher that uses Monopoly to help his students learn math - and you get to learn why one of the other highly regarded Monopoly competitors considers him to be a cheater. The people element of all of this really brings you into the story of this tournament. (And, fortunately, most of the people truly appear to enjoy their time playing - they don't appear to be quite as cutthroat as I expected them to be... but then again, if they were, who would trade with them?)
Among chronicling the 2009 World Championship, Under the Boardwalk throws in some fascinating information and history of the game of Monopoly. For history, the documentary starts with it's origins as the "Landlord's Game", and continues through it's gradual reshaping until it because the game that Charles Darrow invented - which, FYI, was played on a round board! For random facts, do you know where the largest Monopoly board in the world is - or how large it is? I do - and if you watch the film, you will too (well, at least until you forget). I found all of these factual tidbits to be very engaging. I wish that they had focused more on this aspect, but isn't one of the trademarks of a good documentary the fact that it leaves you wanting to know more?
Finally, I must say that I was impressed with the overall quality of the film. I had no idea what to expect going in. I knew it was about Monopoly, and that was enough for me. I had no idea if this was a small-budget or large-budget movie. (To be fair, I still have no idea.) However, with footage included from the national championships of New Zealand, Singapore, Mexico, Canada, and the United States (among others), the film truly feels exhaustive. There are a couple places where I noticed the sound being a bit less than perfect, but I believe that was because of the volume of what was recorded (I believe they were recording the announcer at one of the tournaments who was on a microphone).
ExtrasIn case the feature film wasn't enough, the DVD also features some extras that are pretty nice. First, you can take the full 20 question quiz that all National Champion hopefuls must attempt in order to gain entry into the National Tournament (I got approximately 14 out of 20 correct). Next, they also feature the full (42-minute) 2009 World Championship final game! I realize that many people will not understand this (unless, of course, you enjoy Monopoly enough to buy a DVD about it), but I can see myself watching this at some point!
SummaryOverall, I give Under the Boardwalk a 9.5/10. I have no idea how to score DVDs, so take that how you will. However, I really enjoyed the DVD and consider it to be something that any Monopoly fan should definitely try to watch!
I would like to thank the filmmakers of Under the Boardwalk for providing me with a review copy of their film.
And, if you love Monopoly, you might also want to read about Monopoly Deal - a spinoff of the classic game of Monopoly.