A Truly Life-Changing Film

Back in late July 1996, my fiancé and I made the short walk from our apartment to the middling, yet convenient 8-screen Webster Place Theaters in Chicago’s Lincoln Park to check out a flick that, since its release, had garnered wildly contrasting reviews. Entertainment Weekly felt it “blithely moronic,” while The San Francisco Chronicle called it “fair, at best.” Yet, back here in Chicago, the world’s most influential film critics (according to a June 1990 article in Spy magazine, an unimpeachable news source), Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, strongly disagreed with the negative assessments, giving the movie a 4-star and 3.5-star review, respectively. As Sean Connery’s character Jimmy Malone said in Brian DePalma’s 1987 The Untouchables, “That’s the Chicago way!”

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And so, like Pauline Kael’s famous defense in The New Yorker of such polarizing films as Arthur Penn’s Bonny and Clyde and Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Tango In Paris, the Laurel and Hardy of film criticism took to print and television to lay laurels at the movie’s feet, Siskel going so far as to predict it would make his year-end “Best of 1996” list.

While vaguely aware of the film’s bipolar critical reaction, I hadn’t immersed myself in the hubbub in a manner befitting a wannabe cineaste. With my wedding just three months hence and things busy at work, not to mention all the emotional handwringing over the Menendez brothers trial, my mind was otherwise occupied.

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Guilty!

They say that life-changing events are like a fringe friend–rarely do they have the proverbial good form to phone before showing up at one’s doorstep to annoy. One minute you’re standing over a putt, the next your chest is being shaved for quadruple bypass.

As such, little did I suspect that, once the lights dimmed–but not before 25 minutes of Coca-Cola commercials and previews for the likes of A Very Brady Sequel and First Kid and The Stupids–the rug would be pulled from under my conflicted film snob’s feet. That my estimation of the power of cinema forever would be transformed. What had once been an enjoyable diversion now had the capacity to enact real change. Suddenly movies could make the world a better place, stir the soul.

Yes, the film affected me that profoundly. Why, you ask? Well, not only did it portray with breathtaking clarity and insight what it meant to be human in the late 20th century, so too did it speak eloquently to matters close to my heart–to everyone’s heart, I should hope–things like love, friendship, loyalty, competition and, ultimately, redemption.

All that, plus the dangers of milking a “cow” with a single, large “udder.”

I’m speaking about the Farrelly Brothers’ Kingpin, of course, a movie my 27-year-old self found so unrelentingly funny it actually caused an unsightly facial zit to erupt from the surface of my cheek, the byproduct of my zygomaticus muscles pulling my facial expression upward in laughter again and again for damn near the movie’s entire 113-minute running time, thus leading to an acne-inducing chaff between my upper right cheek and the bottom of my glasses.

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In terms of the Farrelly Brothers oeuvre, some prefer Dumb and Dumber or Stuck on You or Hall Pass or Shallow Hal. Still others contend that There’s Something About Mary is their magnum opus. Me? My sensibilities gravitate towards films featuring an Amish bowling prodigy, a one-handed grifter, a pneumatic strawberry blonde and Bill Murray sporting one of the greatest comb-overs in movie history.

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From what I’ve written above, you might assume that I’m a big fan of the comedy genre. But you’d be wrong. Truth is, I almost never go out of my way to watch comedies, especially on the big screen, which seems to me visual overkill for a genre that generally doesn’t depend on artful composition and lighting. The simple fact is, comedies play just fine on home video.

But what about the communal experience of laughter! you may be thinking.

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To which I’ll point out that anyone who needs an audience to clue him or her in as to when something’s funny, you need to get a life.

But TV back in 1996 was an abomination! might be your next misplaced argument. Before high-definition the square TV aspect ratio meant that some of the best sight gags were cropped. Just think of that final shot in The Graduate, the one with Benjamin and Elaine on the bus!

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To that let me say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening? Laserdiscs. (Postscript: anyone interested in purchasing my Pioneer Elite LaserDisc player and 50+ inventory of laserdiscs, all reasonable offers will be considered.)

Yet another reason comedies really don’t appeal to me is that, like all self-serious students of film, why should I waste precious time with entertainment when instead I could be sinking into a deep depression over the sub-human treatment endured by the likes of Max Von Sydow and his on-screen son in 1987’s Pelle the Conqueror.

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Every blue moon one slips through, however, and sometimes I’m even grateful for it.

The mark of a great comedy is, of course, its ability to amuse after multiply viewings, especially when spaced apart by years. In other words, the humor is so sharp and relevant as to transcend one’s shifting tastes and maturity level.

Back in 1997 I laughed myself silly watching Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery at the now-defunct Broadway Cinema. Maybe nine months later, when I picked up the laserdisc, although I still found the movie mildly amusing, I began to see its flaws. A year after that? Well, I found it so unfunny I couldn’t bear to finish it. Same thing happened when I recently revisited 1986’s Ruthless People via Apple TV, a brutal experience my wife won’t soon let me forget.

Among the comedies with staying power? Dr. Strangelove, of course. Slap Shot. This is Spinal Tap. Lost in America. The Graduate. The Birdcage. The Zucker Brothers’ ouevre (Airplane. Top Secret, Naked Gun). Early Mel Brooks, of course (Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, High Anxiety, The Producers). Each and every one, no matter how dated or idiotic, still brings the laughs viewing after viewing.

So then, based on the above criteria, how would Kingpin fare? I hadn’t seen the film in over a decade. As luck would have it, though, the movie recently made its long-overdue debut on Blu-ray (the preferred home video format of the conflicted film snob–don’t get me started on 1080p streaming).

So join me now, if you will, as I revisit what I considered a comedy classic way back in 1996, that simpler time before the proliferation of the internet turned us all into robots.

I will be measuring my laughter via a highly scientific scale developed exclusively for this purpose, the Guffaw-o-Meter™. Also, to add structure to the evaluation, I’ve split the movie into six (6) sections, each covering a specific period from the movie.

So…let’s press “play” and begin.

I. Ocelot, IA, 1969

Summary: Riffing on Barry Levinson’s The Natural (the first of about 50 homages), the movie opens on a small-town service station run by Calvert Munson who, after gassing up a car, is asked by his son, Roy, if he’s “got time for a game before supper.” Munson Sr. tells him to go get his ball. Instead of cutting to the expected baseball diamond, though, we get the first of about 10,000 sight gags:

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Afterwards, the two head home, Munson Sr. explaining to Roy that “you can apply everything that I’ve taught you about bowling to your daily life. And if you do that you’re going to be decent, you’re going to be moral, you’re going to be a good man.”

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A surprisingly gentle beginning, to be sure; then again, this being a Farrelly Brothers’ movie, it’s safe to assume that young Roy is barreling towards some unseen personal disaster that almost certainly will involve bodily fluids.

Best line: “You’ve got a great gift, son. It’s like angels came and put a blessing on your three bowling digits.”

Guffaw-o-Meter™: 3/10 (mildly amusing at best, but we’re just getting started)

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II. Ocelot, IA, 1979

Summary: Roy (Woody Harrelson), now a young man, makes a grand, Saturday Night Fever-inspired entrance at the local bowling alley where friends and family are feting him for his recent amateur state bowling championship and subsequent decision to give the pro tour a go:

Afterward, Roy bids goodbye to his friends (among them professional golfers Billy Andrade and Brad Faxon–the Farrelly Brothers have a thing for dropping friends, many of them professional athletes, and family into their movies) and proud father, Calvert.

Best sight gag: A toss-up between Roy snatching away that guy’s piece of pizza without consequence…

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…or him doing the splits in those sweet white leisure trousers…

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Guffaw-o-Meter™: 6/10 (solid on the gag front, but still no patented Farrelly Brother gross-out humor)

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III. 1979 Odor-Eaters Bowling Championship

Summary: This marks the first appearance by Bill Murray as arch-rival Eddie “Big Ern” McCracken…

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…who, upon losing the tournament to Roy…

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…secretly sabotages the young man’s car in a nefarious ploy to pull the bumpkin into an ill-advised hustle:

The boys head to a local alley where they act the chumps, pretending to be a couple of drunk dictionary salesmen flush with bonus cash. Soon they’re challenged to a game by a house-staked priest. Late in the game, Roy purposely throws a bad ball, leaving the dreaded 6-7-10 split, an almost impossible shot to convert for the spare. Instead of conceding, however, Roy and Big Ern increase the bet to $1,500, which is accepted. Roy knocks down the shot. Cash in hand, they make for the car but are quickly set upon by the guys they just hustled. Big Ern drives off, leaving behind Roy to face the music. The priest, who isn’t really a priest (“Yeah, I’m a priest like you’re a dictionary salesman, you piece of shit!”), notices Roy’s state champion bowling ring. Enraged, the mob drags Roy back into the bowling alley and, in a homage to Paul Newman getting his thumbs broken in The Hustler, force Roy’s right hand into the ball returner.

Best lines:

Big Ern [to a diner waitress]: “Do me a favor will, you? Do you mind washing off that perfume before you come back to our table?”

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Priest [to Roy and Big Ern at the bowling alley]: “Well, you guys gotta forgive me. See, bowling for money, that’s my only vice.” [He takes a proffered drink from a buxom waitress, slapping her on ass as she walks away.] “Thanks, sugar.” [Looking back to Roy and Big Ern] “OK, two vices.”

McCracken [to priest]: “That’s still very good.”

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Priest [goading his friends to stake him for the $1,500 bet]: “Come on you chickenshits, I’m good for the money, put up my share!”

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Guffaw-o-Meter™: 7/10 (Everything Murray touches turns to comedic gold; also, a welcomed emergence of the Farrelly Brothers’ particular brand of infantile humor)

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IV. Scranton, PA, 17 years later

Summary: It’s all been downhill since the ball-returner incident. Balding, a drunk and sporting a prosthetic hook for his right hand, Roy has become a pathetic loser.

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Barely scraping by as a salesman, he lives in a dump with a bunch of fellow losers, chief among them Herb and Mike, both of whom seem to sit outside all day on lawn chairs, the former with oxygen flowing into his nose while a cigarette dangles from his lip, the latter asking moronic questions to anyone who’ll listen. Also introduced is Roy’s landlady, Mrs. Dumars, played by the incomparable Farrelly Brothers’ regular, Lin Shaye, an actress so fearless in regards to how she’s willing to look and do for a laugh it truly boggles the mind. As Roy makes a quick exit, she barks at him that his rent is overdue.

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On a sales call at a bowling alley–he hawks bowling supplies that no one seems to want or need–Roy, in a nod to Paul Newman discovery of Tom Cruise in Scorsese’s The Color of Money (“That kid’s got a sledgehammer break.”), hears rather than sees a powerful strike. Investigating the source he finds the bowler is an Amish man, Ishmael Boorg (Randy Quaid, this years before went off the rails, fleeing with his kooky girlfriend to Canada and raving about “Hollywood star whackers”) who averages “265-270” per game.

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Sensing an opportunity to make some cash, Roy catches up to Ish, who’s riding his bike back to the family farm, and offers to coach him to greatness. Ish passes, leaving Roy none too pleased:

Back at his apartment, Roy attempts to scam his landlady, Mrs. Dumars, pretending to save her from a purse-snatcher (a plant) so that, in gratitude, she won’t be in a hurry to collect his overdue rent, which he doesn’t have. She catches on, though, and Roy, to avoid being forced onto the street, agrees to sleep with her. What follows is a comically repugnant (albeit PG-13) homage to the famous post-coital stocking scene in The Graduate complete with Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence and some hilariously exaggerated vomiting noises on the soundtrack.

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Desperate now, Roy heads to the Boorg’s farm where he poses as Hezekiah, an Amish visiting from Ohio, and ingratiates himself to Ishmael’s family, including a grandmother who sports a full, wispy beard. After dinner, Roy gets Ish alone to explain that there’s an upcoming bowling tournament in Reno, the Brunswick-Reno Open, with a first prize of $1,000,000, which, with Roy’s help, Ish may just have the stuff to win. The split would be 50/50. Ish doesn’t bite and asks Roy to leave, but Roy refuses. Ish warns him that, if he’s going to stay, he better be prepared to work hard like an Amish. Roy laughs this off as not an issue. The next morning, Roy wakes early to milk the family’s cow. Taking a gulp from a full bucket of white liquid, Roy proudly shows off his labors to Ish’s father who, much to Roy’s horror, reveals the family doesn’t own a cow, only a bull. Roy next attends a barn raising, an event ripe for sight gags and plenty of Witness allusions.

Ish eventually relents, in no small part due to his father revealing that their Amish community is in danger of losing its land to a bank if the they can’t pay $500,000.

Best sight gags:

Roy, preparing for a sales call, has trouble controlling his ungainly prosthetic hook:

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Ish takes a closer look at Roy’s state championship ring, manhandling the prosthetic’s fingers:

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Roy ticks off various reasons a bowler needs a manager:

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Roy attempts to retrieve his rubber hand from the Boorg family’s dog, only to slap himself in the face.

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Best lines: 

Roy: “Hey Herb, how’s life?”

Herb [who seems to be suffering from pulmonary emphysema]: “Takin’ forever.”

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Guffaw-o-Meter™: 9/10 (The Farrelly Brothers truly have hit their stride, a huge percentage of their jokes landing, even the ones that precipitated the Chicago Catholic magazine to slap the film with its dreaded “O” – Morally Offensive rating)

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V. On the road to Reno, NV

Summary: Roy and Ish set out for Reno, the plan being to hustle for dollars along the way. At their first stop Ish loses badly. A frustrated Roy wonders how someone with a 270 per game average could get beaten so soundly. Ish explains that his grandfather taught him to bowl 15 frames, not 10. Incredulous, Roy decided to take Ish back to the farm, his plan to make that $500,000 up in flames. Ish isn’t having it, though; with his community depending on him, he insists he’s going all the way to Reno, with or without Roy. He asks to be dropped off by the side of the road, saying he’d “rather get munsoned out here in the middle of nowhere” than go home. That being his last name, Roy asks what the heck Ish meant. Ish explains that it’s a figure of speech, shorthand for being “up a creek without a paddle, [having] the whole world in the palm of your hand and blow it.” Deflated, and having nothing to return to but his disgusting landlady, Roy reconsiders and the two again hit the road. A training montage follows, Roy coaching Ish into a superior player despite the Amish man’s unbelievable naiveté.

Soon they’re playing in a private, high-stakes game against a hoodlum named Stanley who wears eyeliner and has a beautiful girlfriend named Claudia (Vanessa Angel).

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Ish wins, but before he and Roy can collect, Stanley realizes the two have been playing without money to cover any loses, a cardinal sin in the betting world. Incensed, he threatens to do to Ish’s hand what’s already been done to Roy’s. Claudia kills the lights, though, and the three escape, Claudia tagging along because Stanley is abusive.

At a restaurant the next day, Claudia demands that she and Roy become partners, her $500 in stake money and Roy’s bowling knowledge enough to get them all the way to Reno. Down to his last dollars, Roy has no choice but to accept. Sharp-eyed viewers no doubt will recognize Hall of Famer 354-game-winner and PED-abuser Roger Clemens, who plays Skidmark, a possessive trucker whose girl asks Ish for a dance.

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Back on the road, Claudia begins using her extreme body to distract Ishmael’s bowling opponents and soon the three have amassed a sizable nut. With Reno now attainable, Roy decides it’s time to dump Claudia, who he’s having a tough time trusting because of the scar tissue left by his experience 17 years before with Big Ern. Waking Ish, the two sneak out of the motel. Claudia, similarly disinclined to trust people, is one step ahead of Roy–suspecting something like this might happen, she’s waiting in the car. Roy and Claudia begin to argue, each accusing the other of taking advantage of the very naive Ishmael. Goaded on by Claudia, the two soon exchange comedically over-the-top body blows despite Roy contention that he’d never stoop so low as to fight a woman.

An upset Ish runs out on them. Roy and Claudia give chase, ending up in Ocelet. Stopping by his father’s old service station, now deserted, Roy reveals that he hasn’t been back to his boyhood home in 17 years, didn’t even have the nerve to attend his father’s funeral, because he was so ashamed of his failures.

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Eventually the two find Ish at a strip club named “Stiffys,” where it seems that Ish has gotten himself a job as a cross-dressing pole dancer. (Don’t ask.) The three of them make a break for it, Ish’s boss in pursuit. Back on the road, their differences ironed out, they continue on to Reno, the trip affording Ish the opportunity to further experiment with decidedly non-Amish temptations (smoking, coffee, hip-hop finery, booze, marijuana, lap dances, etc.)

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Best sight gags:

At the money game at Stanley’s place, Ishmael needs three strikes in a row to win. He quickly knocks down two. Before he can bowl for the third, however, Claudia, in a effort to distract him, leans into the fridge for a beer, the cold doing its thing to her voluminous chest. Not only is Ish unfazed, he politely offers to get the others a beer, the cold doing its thing on him, too:

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On the road and now part of the Roy-Ishmael grifting team, Claudia does her part to distract Ish’s opponents by wearing incredibly revealing outfits. During one match, however, the competition, a group of farmers, seems unfazed. Ish, well versed in the peccadilloes of those living an agrarian lifestyle, wisely suggests a mammal of a different stripe might better take them off their game:

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Ish beats an old woman using an electric scooter. When she can’t pay, Roy and Claudia find an alternative way to collect:

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Ish, after deserting Roy and Claudia during their fight, is accosted by trash-throwing Indians as he walks down the road, drawing a single tear:

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That, of course, is a homage to this:

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Looking for information on Ish’s whereabouts, Roy and Claudia interview several people, including the proprietor of “Uncle Willees Reptile Farm,” the man apparently inept at milking venom from his cobras:

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Ish tries flossing for the first time:

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Best lines:

Roy [noticing Ish shaking his head and chuckling as the two of them watch the voluptuous Claudia leave the room]: “What’s so funny?

Ish: “With those narrow hips that girl couldn’t have more than six or seven children.”

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Roy [trying to come up with a reason he’s sneaking Ish from the motel]: “A big military train derailed and this whole area’s in danger of being contaminated by a huge cloud of…” He see Claudia sitting in the car. “Shit!”

Ish [having misunderstood Roy’s exclamation, warns another couple in the parking lot]: “Hey everybody, there’s a shit-cloud coming, run for your lives!”

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Claudia [deciding to make peace with Roy following their fight]: “What do you think about new beginnings?”

Roy [confused]: “What is that, a feminine hygiene spray?”

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Guffaw-o-Meter™: 8/10 (While unable to sustain the comedic brilliance of the section preceding it, this portion of the movie still delivers plenty of belly laughs.)

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VI. Reno, NV

Summary: The three finally make it to Reno, their hotel and casino not only hosting a world-famous “22-topping” Potato Bar, but also the wildly popular The Jeffersons on Ice show, which, a banner notes, is “Movin’ on up to its 164th smash week!!” At lunch they run into Ernie McCracken, also in town to compete in the Brunswick-Reno Open. Now a legendary pro bowler, Big Ern is as obnoxious as ever, although, like Roy, his once luxurious coiffure has been thinned by the ravages of time.

Roy stews while Big Ern gives him the business (“I heard a horrible rumor,” he says, picking up Roy’s prosthetic hand. “Oh, creepy. You know, for the first couple years I felt responsible. How you been otherwise?”) McCracken finally lays off enough to notice Claudia, who, it’s revealed, he once dated. He begs her to come back to him. She refuses. He warns her that Roy is nothing but a loser. Ishmael takes offense and throws a punch that misses Big Ern but lands a wall.

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While Ish and Roy head to their room to see about Ish’s hand (it’s broken), Claudia runs into Stanley, who’s tracked her to Reno (“You shouldn’t’ve quit me, baby.”) Not only is he there to take her back, he plans to put a serious hurt on the guys who hustled him. Claudia begs Stanley not to hurt Roy and Ish, offering up the $42,000 in cash that Ish has won on the cross-country drive if he’ll promise to leave them alone.

Roy and Ish soon learn that Claudia has checked out of the hotel. Roy asks Ish about the bag with all the money. Ish explains that it’s safe, because it’s with “Ms. Claudia.” All hope dashed, Roy proceeds to get drunk at a bar within view of a matinee performance of The Jefferson’s On Ice.

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“What’d that fat-ass Lionel do with my lottery ticket!”

Ish tries to convince Roy to bowl in the tournament himself. Roy mocks the idea. He relents, however, upon viewing a commercial featuring Big Ern’s charity on the TV over the bar. Someone’s got to stop the guy.

The big day arrives. An excited Roy enters the National Bowling Stadium identical to his dramatic entrance after winning the State Championship, except this time someone takes umbrage when Roy grabs a slice of pizza off the guy’s plate. When Roy checks in he’s informed that his pro bowler dues are in arrears–they haven’t been paid since 1979. With no cash on hand, this could be a problem:

That settled, Roy begins the tournament, rolling a strike on his first bowl despite his removable latex rubber hand popping off his prosthetic claw and traveling the length of the lane with his ball.

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Roy and Big Ern both win their first matches, but it’s Roy who’s causing the biggest stir. He quickly becomes knows as “The Rubber Man” to an expanding crowd of supporters. The two men continue to mow down opponents, Roy wanting nothing more than to go head-to-head for redemption.

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Roy and Big Ern reach the finals, which is carried live on ESPN with Chris Schenkel, the godfather of professional bowling broadcasts, on the call and serious Vegas production values (lasers, Urge Overkill singing the National Anthem).

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Big Ern, always a crowd favorite, further ingratiates himself when he holds up his ball, which is clear and features an embedded red rose.

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Despite an appearance by Morganna the Kissing Bandit, the match begins with both competitors rolling strikes. With no love lost between the competitors, things quickly become intense, as highlighted by an ELO-scored montage showing the ups, the downs and loosening comb-overs of both men.

With the match winding down, Roy bowls the dreaded 7-10 split. It appears he’s finished. Before he roll his second ball, Ishmael’s brother arrives and takes him from the stadium. Roy converts the unlikely spare. He then bowls another strike, leaving Big Ern to roll three strikes in a row to beat Roy by a single pin.

As for what happens next? Those lame-os who haven’t seen the movie will just have to check it out.

Best sight gags: Anything involving actually bowling at the tournament, of course, some clips of which appear above. There’s another of note, however, this involving the tattoo Ish ended up with after their long first night of partying in Reno:

Best lines:

Waitress [serving breakfast]: “OK, here we go, two number 64s and a 41.”

Roy [to Ish, who’s having a 64]: “You know, their 64 is supposed to be the best in the city.”

Ish [to Roy, who’s having the 41]: “Yeah? That 41 doesn’t look so bad.”

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Roy [turning from the Potato Bar to address his nemesis]: “Big Ern…long time.”

McCracken: “I’ll say, probably a year for every topping on that table.”

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Roy [entering Claudia’s hotel room with Ish in tow]: “Excuse me. Where’s the lady that’s staying here?”

Housekeeper 1: “She checked out already.”

Housekeeper 2: “She left with a couple of guys.”

Roy [confused]: “Couple of guys? No, you saw her with us, right?”

Housekeeper 1: “No, these guys were good looking.”

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Ish [to a despondent Roy]: “We are going to do what we set out to do. We are going to win this tournament!”

Roy [his spirits rising]: “Yes! I knew it, I knew you were a champion the minute I saw you bowl, Ish.”

Ish: “I’m not gonna bowl, you are.”

Roy: “You are such a loser. You’re a bonafide schmuck. [He holds up his hand.] Look at me!”

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Roy [upon entering National Bowling Stadium]: “Ishmael, welcome to my church.”

Ish [looking towards a lineup of cigar-smoking, beer-drinking, junk food-eating professional bowlers]: “Wow. It’s kind of intimidating being in the presence of so many great athletes.”

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ESPN reporter: “So Roy, let me ask you, what have you been doing all these years?”

Roy: “Well, after the hand…then it was the 80s for a while–drinking. A lot of drinking.”

ESPN reporter: “Are you still drinking?”

Roy: “No, no, that’s behind me now–why, are you buying?”

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Ish [shocked to see his brother in Reno]: “Thomas, what are you doing here?”

Thomas: “Ishmael, it’s time to go home.”

Ish: “I can’t go home now. This is the 10th frame, and if he makes this he’s going to win a million dollars, and we can save the farm, and I have a half a beer left, and there’s no way I’m going home, over my dead body.”

Thomas [sternly]: “It’s time to go home…now.”

Ish [setting down his 40-ouncer]: “OK.”

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Guffaw-o-Meter™: 12/10 (This portion of the movie breaks the scale. Still, after almost 20 years. It seems the zit I got back in 1996 was well worth it.)

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Wrapping up

What else is there to say? With a movie like Kingpin, you either surrender to its stupidity right from the get-go or you don’t.

The Farrelly Brother just threw everything they could at the screen and hoped a good portion of it would stick. Well, it did. Like over 75% in my humble opinion, a huge number for a comedy.

Those that take to it, like me, think it’s one of the funniest–if not the funniest–comedies they’ve ever seen. Therefore, I hereby proclaim that Kingpin most definitely does NOT suffer the same fate as Austin Powers.

Comedy is subjective, of course. So there will be plenty of you who think Kingpin is pretty much the movie equivalent of the village idiot, who think it’s the dumbest, filthiest piece of trash you’ll ever have the displeasure of laying eyes on. What’s more, I have little doubt that, upon reading my positive verdict, you thought to yourself: He must have the maturity level of a 12-year-old to enjoy that crap. And while you’re probably right on in terms of maturity, I must defend myself by saying that’s not the only reason I took to this flick.

Woody Harrelson and Randy Quaid are terrific, both showing off some serious comedic chops. The ‘scope photography, not the norm for a comedy, works well for the bowling theme. The Farrelly Brother’s use of popular music is, of course, second to none. And then there’s John Popper and the Blues Traveler dressed as Amish playing us through the end credits.

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What more could one ask?

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