One of the more livelier, spirited and good-natured docs at this year's SXSW film festival, Some Assembly Required features teams of middle school kids from around the country competing in the National Toy Competition (founded by executive producer and former astronaut Sally Ride). Think Spellbound, but with a little less of a personal connection to the kids involved. Basically, schools all over the United States gather up a set of kids who break into teams and brainstorm ideas for new toys or games. Those ideas are then fleshed out and pitched to the toy competition. Roughly, we're looking at around 400 teams to start out with; a number which is eventually cut down to 50 -- and it's those 50 teams who must build their toy or game (for no more than $150) before flying to San Diego to present their baby to a group of judges.
The film follows six teams from schools in Saddle Brook, New Jersey, Brighton, Michigan, Harlem, New York, West Hartford, Connecticut and Washington, D.C. Early on, we watch as each class breaks up into teams to conceptualize different ideas. If it's a board game, what kind of board game? What color? How big are the pieces? What's the shape of the board? The fascinating part of this process was in watching these kids try to dissect what other kids (of the same age) enjoy. Not only is it a wicked fun activity for kids, but it also teaches them to think outside the box at a very young age. But this isn't some birthday party activity -- it's a national competition, and it doesn't take long for the drama to kick in.