Under the Boardwalk
DVD Review by Kam Williams
DVD Delineates History of Monopoly and Chronicles 2009 Championship
In 1935, Charles Darrow, an unemployed salesman from Philadelphia, got a patent on the board game Monopoly. It was ostensibly inspired by another one named The Landlord, which had been invented over three decades earlier by Lizzie Phillips, a Quaker, as a way of illustrating capitalism’s tendency to enrich property owners at the expense of impoverishing renters.
But Darrow’s version was more a celebration than an indictment of the economic system. It even introduced Rich Uncle Pennybags as its beloved mascot, an exuberant, tuxedoed character sporting a top hat, cane and handlebar mustache modeled on filthy-rich financier J.P. Morgan.
The rights to Monopoly were acquired by Parker Brothers which started mass producing the game. Soon thereafter, it caught fire among millions of the discouraged desperate to rekindle the American Dream as they struggled to survive the Great Depression. Its popularity has persisted uninterrupted over the intervening years to the point where it has been translated into dozens of languages and is presently being distributed in over a hundred countries around the world.
Furthermore, Monopoly today is as much a brand as it is a game, with its logo being licensed for use by McDonald’s, gambling casinos, lotteries and so forth. Meanwhile, it has also become a part of the nation’s very cultural fabric, as witnessed by the countless references to the game made in movies and on television shows.
All of the above is chronicled in Under the Boardwalk, an informative documentary directed by Kevin Tostado who disseminates some fascinating historical info while chronicling the goings-on at both the United States and World Monopoly Championships of 2009. Coming from all walks of life, the only thing the colorful entrants have in common is an obsession with playing the endlessly-entertaining board game which has captured their imaginations since childhood.
As for the key to winning, the participants seem to agree that despite the incredible amount of strategy necessary for a serious shot at the title, a lucky roll of the dice might ultimately decide the outcome. Advance token to Boardwalk!
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 88 minutes
Distributor: Docurama Films
DVD Extras: Director’s commentary; 2009 World Championship final game; The Methods, Math & Myths of Monopoly; Narrator Zachary Levi outtake reel; extended scenes; and an interactive Monopoly quiz.