Kingpin (1996) starring Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid, Vanessa Angel, Bill Murray, Chris Elliott, Lin Shaye directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly Movie Review

Kingpin (1996)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Bill Murray as Ernie McCracken in Kingpin (1996)

Bill & Woody's Gutter Humour

Roy Munson (Woody Harrelson - Indecent Proposal) was on the verge of greatness as a ten pin bowler that is until he was tricked by a rival bowler and lost his bowling hand to a group of punks when a hustle went bad. Some 17 years later and Roy is a drunken salesman with little money and a terrible prosthetic hand, that is until he discovers Ishmael (Randy Quaid - Independence Day) a young Amish man with a great bowling hand. Having convinced Ishmael that he could be great and make money to save his Amish community they both hit the road and head for the bowling championships in Reno. Along the way they hustle their way through towns where they pick up Claudia (Vanessa Angel) who helps them escape from an angry gamble. But having reached Reno they face their biggest test in champion bowler Ernie McCraken (Bill Murray - Groundhog Day), the same man who all those years earlier caused Roy to lose his hand.

So "Kingpin" basically takes its lead from Paul Newman's "The Hustler" and its sequel "The Color of Money" creating a story similar to both but set in the competitive world of ten pin bowling. It's an entertaining idea because those who know the Paul Newman movies will enjoy the obvious references and rehashes of his movie such as the scene where Newman's Fast Eddie Felson gets his hands broken for hustling being replaced by one where Roy's hand gets forced into the bowlong ball return machine.

Woody Harrelson, Vanessa Angel and Randy Quaid in Kingpin (1996)

But of course "Kingpin" is a comedy and it is packed full of daft and occasionally cringe worthy jokes. Many of the funniest scenes revolve around Ishmael not being very worldly and so along the way we watch him make a fool of himself as he experiences life outside the Amish community for the first time. But then jokes surrounding Munson and his hook for a hand, his creepy landlady and the sexy Claudia all work equally as well. Although it has to be said that whilst there are plenty of jokes which go and succeed in getting laughs there are those which try to make you cringe, in particular Munson's bedroom encounter with his landlady, a haunting scene if ever there was one.

As for the acting well to be honest there isn't a bad performance in "Kingpin" with Woody Harrelson as Roy Munson, Randy Quaid as Ishmael and Billy Murray as Ernie McCracken all putting in good performances as does Vanessa Angel as the sexy Claudia who certainly grabs your attention in a few scenes. But whilst they are all good and fun performances it feels all a little bit too scripted and rehearsed so where as you might expect Billy Murray to deliver some sarcastic comment it feels more like he is just reciting his dialogue. And that is the same of all of them and as such the humour never comes across as spontaneous or natural which is a shame.

What this all boils down to is that "Kingpin" is a fun movie and between gags which are aimed at making you laugh and others which go for the cringe it does for the most work. It does suffer from feeling all a little too scripted and the humour feels too orchestrated rather than spontaneous but by the time it is finished you will definitely have been entertained be it by Roy Munson and his hook for a hand, the naivety of Ishmael or the sexiness of Claudia.