A toppler of 111,111 dominoes, a memorizer of pi up to 67,890 digits, a spinner of 28 basketballs simultaneously and the world’s loudest finger snapper are among the subjects of “Breaking and Entering,” director Benjamin Fingerhut’s attempt to ascertain the whys and wherefores of those who seek to break Guinness records. Though lacking the focus and pace of “The King of Kong,” another recent portrait of admittedly obsessed individuals, Fingerhut’s often hilarious, occasionally poignant and altogether revelatory docu remains entertaining throughout. Bowing at New York’s ReRun Gastropub, “Breaking” may qualify as a breakout crowd-pleaser.
Among the film’s many oddball aspirants engaged in the most marginal, fanciful or just plain idiotic of human endeavors, Fingerhut concentrates on three main stories. Steve Spalding happily coasts on his three Guinness Book world records for catching tossed grapes in his mouth; he rarely practices, but is always ready to pit his fruit-gulping skills against all comers. When he goes after septuagenarian Paul Tavilla’s long-distance grape-catching record, however, allegations fly and braggadocio mounts. Suddenly, physicists are tapped to trace complex trajectories while slingshots and tennis balls come into play.
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Fingerhut depicts a kinder, gentler form of rivalry in his chronicle of Michal Kapral , a marathon “joggler” (one who juggles while jogging), who sets a record, only to have it broken by Zach Warren. The two men become friends, inspiring each other to greater and greater exertions for charitable causes, while Michal wonders how much longer he can pursue his completely profitless hobby to the detriment of his financial obligations to the wife and kids.
For 50-year-old ex-Marine George Hood, establishing the record for the longest time cycling on a stationary bike becomes a crusade that lends him star power within his community — complete with hometown parades, a staff of dedicated volunteers and a large rooting gallery to whom he narrates his heroic ordeal, through a microphone, while pedaling. Fingerhut’s prolonged fascination with Hood’s desperate, self-generated celebritydom skews the documentary somewhat, as the film strikes an uneasy balance between Hood’s tale and the other two throughlines. While the docu’s laid-back pace and folksy intimacy grant the subjects dignity and self-awareness, tighter editing could have whittled down occasional repetitions and meanderings.
A more whimsical structuring thread is provided by a phantom figure who holds the record for most records held (108) and keeps popping up in different guises throughout: Ashrita Furman, who introduces the pic by trying to gyrate a 16 1/2-foot hula hoop, also holds records in the “fastest mile pushing an orange with your nose” and “fastest mile while bouncing on a kangaroo ball” categories, the latter spectacularly accomplished on the Great Wall of China.