SXSW FILM FESTIVAL
SXSW Review: Some Assembly Required
by Ken Evans
March 9, 2008
This is definitely going to turn out to be a great festival for documentaries. I've already seen American Teen, We Are Wizards and now Some Assembly Required. I still have a lot more documentaries to see like Reformat the Planet, Second Skin, Throw Down Your Heart, Bananaz, Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry and Crawford. I never knew I was a doc guy but after watching last year's nominated documentaries plus King of Kong, I've been hooked.
Some Assembly Required is the story of 6 teams competing in the national TOYchallenge competition in California. The teams are made up of 5th through 8th graders who are tasked with creating the most original, inspirational, creative and well-liked toy. We follow these teams through the different processes of coming up with the concept, sending in their applications, creating a prototype, and finally presenting their finished toy at the judging in San Diego.
This is a solid documentary, although not as entertaining as American Teen or We Are Wizards. I wanted more information about the competition itself, such as its history and the reasons for its existence. They also didn't really touch on the prizes or prestige that comes with winning best toy. The focus was instead on the process and kids actually coming up with the concepts and finished products.
The kids are definitely what carried this film and they would be the main reason for seeing it. You see their different personalities, which play into the toys that they create. Although you see each of their personalities shine, you don't really know much about any of the students. I wished they would have cut it down to only following 3 teams and presented them like the kids in the documentary War/Dance. In War/Dance we were shown a background for each child and what it meant to them to be competing in their dance competition. It probably would have been more effective and the connection between the audience and the kids in the film could have been much greater.
This was a good film that kept it simple and stayed on track. The kids were great and were very touching, especially the team from Harlem and the Girl Scout team. I didn't know going into the film that the kids were in the audience with us. After it was over they brought them up on stage and we got to hear a few of their thoughts on the film. The film was great and it really added to the overall experience getting to see the children up on stage and two years older then they had been when filming.