Directed by The Farrelly brothers (Bobby and Peter), Kingpin is yet another slice of comedy brilliance from the men who gave the world Dumb & Dumber and There's Something About Mary, to name their two best films. This movie takes the world of ten-pin bowling and adds their usual mix of smart "dumb" gags, gross-out humour and set-pieces to make you laugh out loud.
Woody Harrelson plays Roy Munson, a young man with a great future ahead of him. He can bowl better than anyone else in the game and is on his way to greatness. Until he meets Ernie McCracken (yet another tour de force performance from the great Bill Murray). Ernie talks him into taking part in a money-making scam and things go horribly wrong when the victims demand revenge. Roy loses a hand, which is a big loss for any wannabe bowling champion. Years pass by and Roy becomes one hell of a loser. Things are so bad that his surname is synonymous with taking something potentially great and just turning it all to shit, pardon my language but that is the best way to describe it. His fortunes look up, however, when he finds himself a protege in the form of Ishmael (Randy Quaid). If Roy can convince Ishmael to go along with him on a road trip then they can get to a championship that has a first prize of one million dollars. Ishmael is reluctant to go along as he lives an Amish life and doesn't want to be outcast from the community but circumstances soon change enough to allow the two men to head off. They're soon joined by the gorgeous Claudia (Vanessa Angel) and, of course, "Big Ern" is still acting as if he's the best bowler who ever knocked down some pins. He certainly isn't worried by an Amish lad and some washed-up loser with one prosthetic hand.
Kingpin is, clearly, not for everyone but if you have a healthy sense of humour and aren't easily offended then you will probably find yourself at least having a good chuckle every few minutes. The gags keep flying around so thick and fast that only the most mirthless individuals can fail to have a good time. Even when there aren't clear jokes being made there are constantly amusing performances from the main cast members - Harrelson and Quaid are VERY funny, Vanessa Angel is gorgeous and joins in with all of the fun while Bill Murray steals almost every scene that he's in. There are also great little turns from Chris Elliott, Lin Shaye and Rob Moran.
The script is easily the best thing ever written for cinema by Barry Fanaro and Mort Nathan, the soundtrack is lively and fun (gaining extra points for the inclusion of a great E.L.O track - "Showdown") and there are a couple of great montage moments. The Farrelly brothers know just how far to go and then, as usual, go one step further, which is what makes them so great in the field of comedy. The film is ridiculous, but hilariously so, and while I still think that both Dumb & Dumber and There's Something About Mary hold up as better comedies with bigger laughs, I don't argue strongly with anyone who puts this movie above those two.
In comedy terms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . it's a strike!