Linda Cook review: ‘The Speed Cubers’ is a delightful look at an unusual friendship between rivals

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Who would have thought a little documentary about Rubik’s Cube solvers could be so endearing?

Just to refresh your memory: The gadget is a three-dimensional puzzle that Hungarian sculptor and architecture professor Ernő Rubik invented in 1974. Millions of the cubes, in various sizes, have been sold throughout the world, and it is considered to by many to be the world’s best-selling toy.

To a select group of competitors, the cube is not a plaything. It’s serious business in the world of Rubik’s Cube solvers who have only seconds to beat their opponents in putting the puzzle together.

The film focuses on speed cubers Max Park and Feliks Zemdegs, both of whom have set records with their speed-cubing skills. Yes, there is a World Cube Association competition, and the one featured here is from 2019 in Melbourne, Australia.

But it’s really not about the contest. It’s about two of the contestants who have formed an unlikely friendship. The movie gives us brief biographies of the two young men, who are markedly different but share a passion that unites them.

Park, newer to the scene, is autistic. Through family videos, we watch how speed cubing has opened up his world. We also see how his family sometimes struggles with his autism, and share their elation as they discover the little cube that grows to mean so much to him.

I loved watching the competitors, using mental algorithms, solve in seconds what would take me weeks to figure out. In some parts of the competition, contestants use only one hand.

Even more, I loved watching the affection and respect Zemdegs and Park share, supporting each other even while considering each other as rivals. Zemdegs never condescends to the younger Park. Both realize they cannot stay on top forever.

Would that all competitors had the heart that these two world-class champions do.

3 1/2 out of 4 stars

Running time: 40 minutes.

Streaming on Netflix.

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