Docurama // 2010 // 88 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // February 14th, 2012
"This game is the most dynamic game in the world. It changes with every roll of the dice."
The first change in what became Monopoly was a complete reversal: the game was inspired by The Landlord's Game, which was designed to illustrate the evils of capitalism in a fun way. If, like me, you've never upgraded your Monopoly board, you could be surprised to learn there's something called a speed die, which makes the game faster. Of course, the idea of Monopoly-themed bathrooms could be the most surprising aspect of the board game.
Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story frames its examination of the game's appeal around national and world tournaments. The documentary goes into the history of Monopoly, its place in pop culture, strategy, the international appeal of the game, and other miscellaneous trivia. It even covers the Monopoly romance that sprung up between a national champion and a Las Vegas showgirl (all the better to get a clip of her show in); they're no longer together, as noted in the commentary, but she's now quite good at Monopoly.
Under the Boardwalk is heavy on quotes from people involved in the tournaments. Since it is a popular game, I'd have liked to have heard more from average players. However, there wouldn't be as much material on strategy (When should you pay to get out of jail quickly?). The amount of strategy involved in tournament Monopoly surprised me almost as much as those bathrooms.
The documentary includes lots of vintage clips and footage, dating back to an early movie appearance by Monopoly in 1936's Meet Nero Wolfe. Thus, the picture quality is variable; there are no problems with it, though.
The DVD includes quite a few extras. There's a commentary with director Kevin Tostado and producer Craig Bentley, in which you'll learn about the making of the film. There's also a three-part short course in the game from expert Tim Vandenberg, a teacher who uses Monopoly in his classes. He'll explain why the iron is the favorite token, show probability charts used in his class, and clarify some myths about the rules. His presentation also includes some pointers on the psychology of the game. Extended scenes from the Canadian and Australian tournaments and a complete world championship game are featured. There's a short outtakes bit, with narrator Zachary Levi (Chuck) trying to get the pronunciation of "Reading" right. If that weren't enough, you can take a past Monopoly tournament qualifying quiz (I got less than half right; I'm not "ready for the big leagues," as they put it). All told, there's more than three hours of extra material. While the tournament clips are for the hardcore Monopoly buff, anyone who has ever played the game will appreciate Vandenberg's strategy course.
Regular Monopoly players will probably want to buy Under the Boardwalk, and it's interesting enough to rate a rental or Netflix for the occasional player.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated G