By Eric Renshaw
If you’re anything like me, you play air hockey poorly, fumbling the puck and shooting it into my own goal. The players featured in Way of the Puck have the skills to put me to shame (better than even I can myself), and they all share a rabid love of the game.
Many of them have been playing since air hockey hit the scene back in the ’70s. They shun holding the rounded handle that juts from the top of a traditional air hockey mallet, opting instead for a three-fingered grip on the mallet that gives them more control.
Director Eric D. Anderson, himself a competitor, traces the history of the game and details the lives of several players who compete in national championships. Mark Robbins (“The Guru”) is an encyclopedia of knowledge, and his garage holds a fortune in equipment and treasures (including a virgin table, mint in box). Tim Weissman (“The Ex-Champ”) is credited with creating the circle drift and with bringing thought and strategy to the game. Andy Yevish (“The Promoter”) is an artist whose wife is not exactly thrilled with all the time Andy spends promoting, arranging and playing the sport.
Way of the Puck calls to mind King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters in how the players’ dedication is portrayed and how the tournaments are covered. Both films brought a true excitement to subjects that don’t set my soul on fire by their nature. It also reminds me of the clever documentary Welcome to Macintosh, mostly in the time spent on Mark Robbins – the trip through the stuff in his barn shares similarities with scenes in Welcome to Macintosh.
To take a subject like air hockey that has a, shall we say, less than massive following, to make it interesting and compelling enough to inspire its viewer to want to seek out that mostly ignored air hockey table at the local arcade and try out that three-finger grip is quite an accomplishment. I say well done.