Everything Morgan Spurlock tried to impress upon the viewer in his hit docu, “Super Size Me,” gets gobbled up and spat out in Danielle Franco and Chris Kenneally’s “Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating.” This amusingly light (but oh-so-gut-busting) reverie on one man’s titanic efforts to rise to the top ranks in the very unofficial sport of competitive scarfing goes down quickly as a good example of documaking on freakish behavior and freakier subcultures. Fests will line up for seconds, with edgier ancillary helpings to follow.
Conti, who amazingly lacks a gut, is the kind of young guy who doesn’t cheer Kobe Bryant, but rather world champ hot dog eater Takeru Kobayashi, who currently dominates the 4th of July Nathan’s hot dog contest on Coney Island. Co-helmers Franco and Kenneally find Conti compelling — a clearly intelligent fellow with odd tastes (Corey Feldman movies, giant vats of raw oysters), who can’t seem to fit in mainstream America.
Having proved that he can down record amounts of oysters, Conti trains for and wins a New Orleans oyster contest sponsored by the IFOCE, or the International Federation of Competitive Eating. (His mark: 14 dozen oysters in 10 minutes.) Reaching his first goal of, as he proudly terms it, “eating on the professional level,” Conti signs with the federation and goes on the competition circuit as preparation for the Nathan’s event.
Even funnier than watching Conti go about this so seriously — he actually runs, works out at the gym and applies Zen thinking as he pounds down the chow — is watching his roommate Jeremy help him during training, and noticing the awe-inspired look on Conti’s face when he’s able to hang out with Kobayashi, who keeps his eating tricks to himself.
The filmmaking team adroitly uses verite technique and sticks to an amused yet respectful tone that has viewers rooting for Conti.