So it’s just reached the end of January, which means most people in Western Civilisation are poor. So my cinema visit was scrapped and we couldn’t afford to rent any new movies from our generic online movie streaming service, so we trawled back over some of our dvds and recorded movies and found Kingpin. Now admittedly, I didn’t particularly have high expectations based on the blurb, which was basically ‘bowling, booze and Amish’. But I went with it because it was a Farrelly Brothers film, Bill Murray was in it and Woody Harrelson was in it. I was actually pleasantly surprised.
Kingpin is about Roy, (Harrelson) who is a pro-bowler, after a hustle goes badly wrong, his bowling hand is left mangled and replaced with a hook. 20 years on, he’s an alcoholic salesman, down and out, he notices the talents of Ishmael (Randy Quaid) at a bowling alley. Bowling is strictly against Amish lifestyle, but occasionally sneaks out to play a couple of games. Roy convinces Ishmael to enter a top bowling competition to win a lot of money, coincidentally enough to save the Amish settlement from closure.
It was incredibly funny, some moments descended into downright stupidity like the fight scene between Claudia and Roy, but actually, it’s a little less ridiculous than say, Dumb and Dumber, even if the ending is a bit unrealistic. But it is funny, most of the humour coming from Woody Harrelson as Roy, considering Kingpin comes shortly after his break out hit Natural Born Killers, Woody Harrelson isn’t the first name which springs to mind for comedy. Bill Murray, as expected provides some of the more dead-pan hilarity. The humour is more slapstick, play-on-words-stupidity, the gross out moments (milking a bull, the all-time low of sleeping with the rancid landlady) but isn’t actually too ‘gross-out’. Maybe I’m slightly densensitised to it, but I didn’t find it too offensive.
Randy Quaid as Ishmael is an element of the film that I was surprisingly happy with. It’s all to easy to exploit his Amish background for comedy, but actually I think the Amish element is treated with a certain degree of respect. He’s not funny because he’s Amish, he’s funny because he’s funny. He also brings a much-needed element of innocence to the film, which is ‘questionable character’ heavy. I think this is something that the Farrelly brothers do very well, creating characters which have slightly more to them than the usual density found in comedy.
There was a slight problem with the story in that it kind of darts off in different directions, it sometimes feels like a sketch show sewn together by a thin plot, but actually this doesn’t matter too much, because the premise of the film itself is borderline fantasy. And as a Murray fan, it’s very noticeable that whilst he appears ‘a main character’ in the first 15 minutes, he doesn’t actually reappear until the last 30 minutes, and I think this does a bit of harm to the film, it kind of lags and drags a bit in the middle, but having said that, I was still engaged and enjoying the film. It’s an enjoyable throwaway film, not breaking any new grounds, but I think fans of Harrelson and Murray will enjoy it, even if it isn’t their strongest work.