Word Wars (2004) – A Review

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A review of the 2004 documentary Word Wars, about the quirky lives and enthusiastic passion four players have for Scrabble and to be the best at the game they can possibly be

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A quirky world with an eclectic collection of oddball characters all finding a connection with their shared love, passion and obsession of Scrabble. 

The film follows along four Scrabble enthusiasts, each trying to be the best player they can possibly be. With their own unique perspectives, training and styles of playing the famed board game, they all arrive at a Scrabble Tournament, each hoping to walk off with the grand prize and the honor of being the best Scrabble player in the country.

Word Wars is a very fun documentary. It’s kind of rough looking. I imagine if it were made today it would have a much more polished, glossy finish to it. But despite not being the most elegant documentary, it’s a peek into a compelling world of Scrabble and you’re drawn into watching this group of Scrabble players and their passion.

Word Wars is very much similar to the 2007 documentary The King of Kong. There it was obsessed players battling and trying to reach the top score of the video game Donkey Kong, in Word Wars the battlefield are Scrabble boards with letter tiles as the weapons. 

Word-Wars-2004-Scrabble-documentary-best-playersIt begins rather like a quaint look into these four men who love playing the game, but gradually it’s revealed just how far their lives revolve around the game and what they’re willing to do to become the best at it. Popping brain enhancing pills, replaying lost games in their heads, studying words while driving. 

They each have their own personalities and strategies towards the game and life. Nerdy G.I. (gastrointestinal) Joel, Tai-Chi practicing champ Joe, stand-up comedian Matt and angry and colorful language speaking Marlon.

They’re all just as eager to win a Scrabble game in a living room as they are at a tournament. Each are funny in their own ways, while not even knowing they’re as entertaining to watch as they are! This isn’t to say the documentary views them as jokes or mocks them. While you will laugh at some of their behavior and their lifestyles, you will also admire how devoted and strongly they feel for their Scrabble passion. They might look like a group of oddballs at first, but in this Scrabble world they’re bonafide celebrities. 

Word-Wars-2004-Scrabble-documentary-G.I.-Joel-champion-playerIt’s also quite funny when the topic of accepted words is discussed, with a spokesman from Hasbro explaining how they removed ‘dirty’ words from being disallowed in the official Scrabble dictionary. 

By the time the big Scrabble tournament arrives and letter tiles are being thrown down and the four closely watch their rankings rise and fall, you’ll be completely invested in the outcome.

Word Wars is a very enjoyable little documentary, whether you’re a casual Scrabble player, a bit more or an enthusiast or just someone who wants to experience a subculture where accomplishing a ‘Bingo’ makes you jump out of your seat and cheer! 

A ‘Bingo’ by the way, is when a Scrabble player uses all seven letters in his rack in a single turn. You’ll definitely walk away with some knowledge from Word Wars

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