Wordplay is another documentary about a niche society, and as such gains attention from how much insight and fascination it can impart about its subject. In this case, it's about, specifically, the New York Times crossword puzzle, famed for being the most challenging of current regularly-generated crossword puzzles, and its creators and avid players. Wordplay does a good job of giving us an inside tour of this world -- we gain some idea of how challenging it is to put the crosswords together and maintain their integrity; it features some idiosyncratic players but never makes fun of them; and it even includes celebrities -- ones you might not have suspected are crossword addicts -- talking about their enthusiasm.
The movie culminates in the latest of an annual tournament, where the featured players race each other to solve New York Times crosswords in the shortest amount of time. Though entertaining and engaging, nothing truly surprising occurs in Wordplay.
If the movie emphasizes anything, it affirms that common-interest societies like this -- strewn about the U.S. (and, perhaps, the world) -- all survive by sharing the traits of community, devotion, and mutual dedication. At their most basic, they fulfill the simple human needs to be active, be challenged, and belong. Wordplay presents the warmth of one such successful community, thereby positively reflecting their experiences.
(Released by The Weinstein Company and rated "PG" for some language and thematic elements.)
Review also posted at www.windowtothemovies.com.