Word Wars was a little like Spellbound but a lot like Cinemania.
Word Wars was a little like Spellbound, the adorable documentary following several young spelling bee competitors, but a lot like Cinemania, the similar sad tale of obsessive compulsives living their lives for one single venture.
Word Wars chronicles the bizarre lives of avid Scrabble players. It’s at times difficult to watch just how much they’ve sacrificed in their lives and relationships to this game. It’s just a game to most people, but these are not most people. To them, it represents competition, achievement, zen enlightenment, and most of all money. Twenty-five G’s to be exact. The film follows a handful of central characters as they progress toward a national Scrabble tournament.
But not all the characters are drawn inexorably to Vegas for the big tourney. There is a different subculture of players, probably just as obsessed with the game, but who refuse to participate in the professional circuit. These are the New York City players, men and women, who congregate in Central Park. Ironically, this vagabond group seems to be the most balanced, as the game has not completely usurped their respective lives.
Watching films like Cinemania and Word Wars is like watching a train wreck. It’s a slow, inevitable, tragedy of human neuroses. And yet you don’t dare look away.
Thankfully, there’s just enough people in Word Wars to warrant our affection instead of our pity, which likens the film to Spellbound. And that’s a redeemable quality.