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Kingpin (1996)

You wouldn’t want to meet these pinheads in an alley

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 113 minutes

UK Certificate: 12


There are many who won’t agree with me here, but for my money ‘Kingpin’ is the Farrelly brothers’ best movie. More than any of their others – including ‘Dumb & Dumber’ and There’s Something About Mary – it embodies the simultaneously sweet and sickening variety of belly-laughs that the siblings from Pennsylvania have made their own.

Woody Harrelson stars as Roy Munson, a one-time championship-winning ten pin bowler, reduced by various misfortunes to a bald, drunken nobody who spends his days wallowing in self-pity. Thanks to a particularly nasty incident in the 70s, he doesn’t even have both hands anymore, instead having to use an over-sized rubber paw slipped clumsily over a hook.

He’s such a loser that the word “Munson” has become universally synonymous with abject failure. But it looks like there could be a glimmer of hope for the man when he meets Ishmael (Randy Quaid). Ishmael is one of the most naturally-gifted bowlers he’s ever seen, and it looks like with a bit of coaching he could make the pair of them some serious mullah. The only trouble is, Ishmael’s Amish, and really isn’t supposed to be doing stuff like this.

Also on board are Bill Murray in a fantastic turn as Roy’s wild-haired rival on the alley, and Vanessa Angel who always looks good but, it has to be said, struggles a bit with the actual acting side of things.

This is big, loud, rude and crude, but deep down there’s also an unusual charm behind the tale. Harrelson and Quaid seem an awkward pairing at first, but end up going fantastically well together, while my only complaint with Murray is that he’s not on-screen often enough. Then again, it’s reassuring to know that someone with such immense talent as Murray is confident enough to know he can be funny without having to appear with his face practically pressed up against the camera lens in every single scene. Jim Carrey please take note.

Strangely, the fact that some of the jokes just don’t work only seems to make the whole experience even more enjoyable. Some of them are so bad that I was laughing at the writers, whilst others were so good that I was laughing with them. Either way, I was laughing – and that’s surely the only thing that matters when you watch a film like this.

It's Got: A great twist on the ‘Indecent Proposal’ premise.

It Needs: To lambast that annoying part of going bowling – the bit where they make you wear someone else’s shoes.

DVD Extras A trailer and a run-of-the-mill “making of” documentary. DVD Extras Rating: 2/10


Prepare to be bowled over! Not literally, obviously.