Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Movie Review: Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating

A Rocky for fat kids, this documentary tells the story of Crazy Legs Conti’s transformation from Nathan's hot dog contest spectator to participant. If that’s not the American dream for 2007, I don’t know what is.

The film is entertaining mainly because Conti is likable and surprisingly normal. He works out and only weighs about half as much as the average competitive eater. The film gives us his journey from watching the annual Nathan’s contest, to impulsively winning an oyster-eating endurance test, to winning an oyster-eating speed contest and securing membership in the IFOCE (International Federation of Competitive Eating) run by George and Richard Shea. These two are slick talent agents who represent the stars of the sport, although they calmly reassure Conti he’s not signing a Vince McMahon-esque pact where they will own his “character.”

To achieve true greatness, Conti must conquer the hot dogs. He trains hard with the goal of earning a spot in the super bowl of competitive eating – the Nathan’s 4th of July event. There’s some interesting bits on his development of a technique (he takes notes on the style of the unbeatable Kobayashi. I would have enjoyed more focus on the “zen” as the title promised, but aside from a small segment with Conti’s mom, who lives in Japan most of the year and follows the competitive eating circuit there, there’s not much insight into the spiritual side of the sport. Heck, more enlightenment on the genetics and body mechanics of the champs would have been good, too. Conti does get to have breakfast with Kobayashi, the petite hot dog champ, but that dude won't give up any of his secrets.

Don’t miss the DVD extras, which include a clip of the arrogant Ed “Cookie” Jarvis as he models his hideous 4XL denim trench coat embroidered with all of his contest victories and TV appearances, and Conti and friends engaging in a marshmallow Peep eating contest during their Easter dinner. Mangia!

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