Review: Kingpin (1996)

>> Sunday, June 24, 2007

USA/C-117m./Dir: Bobby Farrelly & Peter Farrelly/Wr: Barry Fanaro & Mort Nathan/Cast: Woody Harrelson (Roy Munson), Randy Quaid (Ishmael Boorg), Vanessa Angel (Claudia), Bill Murray (Ernie “Big Ern” McCracken)

Few sports are as closely associated with strong drink as bowling, and few films have milked more laughs from that association than the Farrelly Brothers’ 1996 comedy Kingpin. Woody Harrelson stars as Roy Munson, a rising star in the professional bowling world, who hits rock bottom after losing a hand through an encounter with a slimy rival bowler, Ernie “Big Ern” McCracken (Bill Murray). Seventeen years later, the boozing, balding, rubber-handed has-been gets another chance at the big time in the form of Ishmael Boorg (Randy Quaid), a talented amateur bowler who also happens to be Amish. Roy convinces Ish to leave his religious community to train for a million dollar tournament in Las Vegas under Roy’s tutelage. Along the way to the contest (featuring a final showdown with Big Ern), Ishmael breaks several commandments while Roy regains a bit of self respect.

Although, Kingpin was a box office disappointment for the Farrellys, sandwiched between their mega hits Dumb and Dumber (1994) and There’s Something About Mary (1998), it is arguably their funniest movie. Their films have always been an untidy mix of gross-out humor and heart, but with Kingpin, that unstable cocktail holds together well and goes down smoothly. The script is very funny and the leads (especially Harrelson) do a great job selling each gag. However, it is Bill Murray who steals the film, adlibbing his way through the small but significant role of sleazy villain Big Ern.

The movie is plenty entertaining on its own, but to give your viewing an extra kick, try taking a drink every time someone uses the words “Munson” or “Munsoned.”

Drinks Consumed--Gin (Tanqueray & Tab), beer, bourbon, and champagne
Intoxicating Effects--Drinking & driving, passing out, vomiting, and memory blackouts

Potent Quotables--INTERVIEWER: So, Roy, let me ask you. What have you been doing all these years?
ROY: Ah, well, the-the-uh-- After, after the hand, I-- There-there, no, there was the ‘80’s. You know, for a while, I-- (clears throat) Drinking. Yeah, a lot, a lot of drinking.
INTERVIEWER: Are you still drinking?
ROY: No-no-no-no, I-I don’t-- That-that’s behind me now. I just-- Why, are you buying?

Video Availability--Although originally released theatrically in a 113-minute PG-13 cut, the Kingpin DVD (MGM) presents a slightly raunchier 117-minute, R-rated version.

Similarly Sauced Cinema--Jeff Bridges stars as “The Dude,” a lazy, White Russian-sipping, bowling-obsessed, stoner in the Coen Bros.’ Big Lebowski (1998).


Chris B. July 2, 2007 at 12:30 PM  

"What is it about great sex that makes me have to crap? You really shook something loose, tiger."

Unknown October 12, 2012 at 12:03 AM  

The dynamics of this movie are absolutely amazing. Woody Harrelson and Bill Murray in a single movie is begging for a good time. Nothing like a movie about bowling with a handless man and an amish man.

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I like to drink. I like to watch movies. I like to watch movies about drinking. I like to write about the movies I’ve watched, but only if I’ve had a drink first.

All text including the title "Booze Movies: The 100 Proof Film Guide" Copyright William T. Garver

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