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Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story


Do not pass ‘go.’ Do not collect $200. Do not watch this.

Rod Lott February 13th, 2012

For my entire existence, I was under the impression Monopoly was a board game. Wrong! According to those interviewed in the feature documentary “Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story,” it is “about life” and “like life.” To have a set sit on your shelf is “a great source of pride.”

undertheboardwalkthemonopolystory

Really?

Well, for those who compete in the Monopoly World Championship every four to five years, it is. After a predictable opening sequence of The Drifters’ song playing over Atlantic City tourist footage, freshman feature director Kevin Tostado introduces us to them and, unfortunately, stays focused on them.

Sad to say, the “Story” promised by the subtitle is only a brief bit amid 88 minutes, akin to an unexpected visit from a friend who doesn’t realize you already have company, so she stays only for a moment or so before ducking out. It’s arguably the most fascinating part, as we learn the game’s original intent was as an anti-capitalism statement.

With quick clips that show Monopoly references in film (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” to “Role Models”) and TV (“The Flintstones” to “30 Rock”), “Under the Boardwalk” shifts to something of a narrative as it follows a championship game, and seeing pieces of it play out in real time is as exciting as you think it might be, which is to say “not.”

This doesn’t have the tension of "Spellbound," “Wordplay” or "Word Wars," all fine docs similar in theme, but about the competitive nature of, respectively, the Scripps National Spelling Bee, crosswords and Scrabble. No edge, no teeth. It preaches to the converted, talking about how fun and awesome and educational Monopoly is, which likely anyone interested in watching already knows.

It's not a bad film, in terms of competence, but in the department of enlightenment, it's positively bankrupt. —Rod Lott


 
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