Kingpin (1996)

Kingpin (1996)

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The odd couple, in more ways than one.
The odd couple, in more ways than one.

Twitter Plot Summary: A former pro bowler trains up a promising rookie. The problem? The rookie is Amish.

Genre: Comedy/Sport

Director: Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly.

Key Cast: Woody Harrelson, Bill Murray, Randy Quaid, Vanessa Angel, Chris Elliott, Lin Shaye, Rob Moran

Five Point Summary:

1. That’s a nasty way to lose a hand.
2. Getting “Munsoned.” To fail spectacularly. Further humiliation.
3. Randy Quaid in drag. Oh sweet Grud no.
4. And so, the final showdown. Turns out Bill Murray is genuinely good at bowling. Who’da thunk?
5. A reason to sit through the credits, and it’s not a blooper reel. Yay!

The films of the Farrelly Brothers are more often than not known for their gross-out humour more than anything else. In hindsight this doesn’t apply to all of their films… just most of them. Kingpin is tonally the same as their other films, in that it feels like a Farrelly Brothers plot rather than attempting to cram a string of jokes about bodily functions into the script. Most of the gross-out humour comes in the form of Lin Shaye as the disgusting landlady of Roy Munson (Harrelson), the rest of it is more to do with inherent silliness. Other than Lin Shaye’s efforts, which are effortlessly funny, an early scene in particular involving the milking of cows is perhaps as bad as it gets.

But let’s wind back a few years, at least as far as the plot is concerned. We’re introduced to Munson as a young whippersnapper who is rather good at ten pin bowling. After he gets involved with Bill Murray’s rival bowler Ernie McCracken, they use their bowling skills to scam unsuspecting bowling alley owners. After one scam goes awry Harrelson is abandoned by Murray and, in a symbolic fashion, loses his bowling hand. Years later, Harrelson has lost everything (but gained a rubber hand and a hook) and instead of his name being synonymous with bowling, as his father once imagined, it is now used as a derogatory term used to indicate somebody who has failed spectacularly. Then he happens to meet an Amish guy, Ishmael (Quaid) who appears to have the same spark that Munson once did. And so, their crazy adventure – to win a bowling championship and subsequently a fair bit of money – begins. If you’re aware of movie scriptwriting conventions then you should be able to telegraph the finale within the first 15 minutes, but that’s okay – it’s all about the journey.

Bill Murray. Never a bad thing. Even in Garfield 2.
Bill Murray. Never a bad thing. Even in Garfield 2.

The core theme is all about redemption, and the story reaches an inevitable conclusion. That’s not to say that it’s predictable though – whilst the conclusion is never in any doubt, there’s plenty of surprises, twists and turns before we reach that point. Being funny is no excuse for lazy writing, which thankfully isn’t the case here. After meeting Claudia (Angel), it becomes a full-on road trip movie with three distinctive personalities all butting heads and all having different ideas about what they need to do, where they need to go and so on. In essence it’s a surrogate family model – Munson and Claudia as the parents and Ishmael as the naive child. Throw in a delightful dose of Bill Murray doing what he does best – being incredibly funny – and you can’t go wrong.

So there’s not a huge amount of gross-out humour, and the story has both a purpose and a defined character arc. Thus, I enjoyed it very much. Fans of other Farrelly Brothers movies are well served, but there’s enough to satisfy a more general audience, should you wish to look past the fact it’s a Farrelly Brothers production.

Favourite scene: The frozen look on Randy Quaid’s face when they escape with Vanessa Angel.

Quote: “I don’t puke when I drink, I puke when I don’t.”

Silly Moment: The fist fight between Roy and Claudia. Prosthetics work used to great effect.

Score: 3.5/5

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