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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 5/18/99

1996 (1999) - MGM

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Kingpin Program Rating: A-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B+/B

Specs and Features

117 mins (longer R-rated version - originally rated PG-13), letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), dual-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, full-length commentary track with Bobby and Peter Farrelly, animated film-themed menu screens with sound effects, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: English & French, Close Captioned

Ah yes... there's nothing quite like the story of a young Amish boy and his love of bowling. The sight of a good barn-raising, the sound of bowling pins falling, the smell of... well, let's not go there. Kingpin follows the career of one Roy Munson (Woody Harrelson), who wins the 1969 $1,000 Odor-Eaters Bowling Championship, and then suffers a tragic 'mishap', after being left hanging by bowling hustler Ernie McCracken (Bill Murray, in a role only he could have played). Years later, sporting a hook on his bowling arm, the down-and-out Munson dreams of recapturing his glory days, when he spots his meal ticket - Ishmael Boorg (played by Randy Quaid), a big, dumb kid with a wicked bowling curve. Munson figures that with a little coaching, the kid could go pro, and win the championship. But Ishmael is Amish, and his family may have a problem with the idea. And there's another obstacle - Ernie McCracken, who's gone straight, and is after the championship prize himself.

Bobby and Peter Farrelly are in top form here, delivering one of the most insidiously funny films I've seen in a long time. Now, this film isn't for everyone. In fact, it's probably not really appropriate for anyone! You just have to see it to know what I'm talking about. But who cares? This is down-in-the-dirt, blue collar, take-no-prisoners, body function humor at its finest. Think Dumb and Dumber and There's Something About Mary (both of which were also directed by the Farrelly brothers), and you're in the right league here. Here's a dialogue sample, typical of what I'm talking about:

Munson: (carrying a sloshing pail, and sporting a milk mustache) I hope you don't mind, but I got up early and I took the liberty of milkin' your cow for you. Took a little while to get her warmed up - she sure is a stubborn one - then POW... all at once!

Amish Man: (wincing as Munson drinks from the bucket) We don't have a cow. We have a bull.

Munson: (spits it out) Ah... I'm just gonna go brush my teeth...

Get the idea? And we learn in the commentary track, that Woody (as Munson) originally said, "Boy, it sure tastes better when you drink it straight from the spigot!" but the line had to be cut to avoid the wrath of the MPAA ratings board! This edited line aside, the Farrelly brothers pull few punches here.

Kingpin is definitely not for the faint hearted, or easily grossed out. But the movie is just filled with moments of comic brilliance. This is easily Murray's best film role in years - it's god-awfully hard not to crack up, when you see him mugging for the fans at the championship, complete with a flyaway come-over haircut, western shirt, and a crystal-clear bowling ball with a rose in the center. Murray is absolutely in his element, and some of the stuff he comes up with - the little mannerisms and the one-liners - are absolutely genius. To top it all off, in the commentary, we learn that most of this was made up on the spot - Murray threw out pages of his dialogue and just ad-libbed!

As DVDs go, this one satisfies nicely. You may remember that this film was delayed several months, so that widescreen could be added (anamorphic no less), and it looks generally very good, with rich, accurate colors. The picture can look a little soft at times, and there seemed to be several occasions where some edge enhancement was done in post, to sharpen the detail. There is also some occasional grain that can be seen. Still the print seems to be in very good condition, with little dust and dirt. All in all, not reference quality, but still pretty good. I'm just very happy that MGM saw fit to add anamorphic widescreen to this disc - it was originally going to be full frame only (the full frame is still available - just flip the disc over). As for audio, it's not too bad - not a great deal of rear channel use, but it's well mixed - dialogue is clear and true, and the soundtrack is a blast.

As for extras, you get a theatrical trailer, a commentary track, and about 5 minutes of additional footage (edited back into the film) that would have resulted in an R rating during the film's theatrical release. The commentary alone would be worth the price for me. The Farrelly brothers do GREAT commentary. They have so many funny little stories to tell. We learn about all their old buddies who appeared in the film, how little "happy accidents" occurred throughout the filming which ended up making the film work even better, and all of Murray's shenanigans. We learn that Woody Harrelson can't bowl for crap, but Randy Quaid has a 188 average. You really get the sense that Bobby and Peter have a great time making movies, and they must have had a blast doing this one. They also have great rapport with each other, taking subtle jabs at their own work, pointing out gaffs in continuity and laughing about them. This is great fun to listen to.

Kingpin is definitely not for the kiddies. You're either going to really love it... or really hate it. But I find this kind of unrestrained filmmaking refreshing. And I really love it.

Bill Hunt

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