Kingpin is an early Farrelly Brothers comedy about an amateur
bowling champion named Roy Munson who got hopelessly lost on his way to a
professional career. Years after having his dreams crushed, while living
as an alcoholic con man, Roy spots a chance at redemption when he
discovers and hopes to manage an Amish bowling whiz.
Woody Harrelson plays the sleazy Munson, while Randy Quaid
plays the Amish lad with the Dutch Boy haircut, and they are both amusing,
but the show is stolen, as you might expect, by the unrestrained antics of
Bill Murray as Big Ern, the sleazebag king of the pro bowling circuit. The
Farrellys point out in their DVD commentary for this film that Murray
showed up, looked at his script, learned the basic facts about his
character, then tore up the script and ad-libbed his entire role, all
while staying professional enough to allow the other actors to interact
with him. The brothers were a bit unnerved at first by the volcanic
Murray, and they were more than a little bit worried about losing control
of their film, but they ultimately let the crazy man do his thing because
... well, because he's Bill Freakin' Murray, and you have to trust his
comic instincts. They speak of Murray in the same awe-struck, reverential
tones that political pundits would reserve for Nelson Mandela or
Christians might reserve for Jesus himself.
And maybe that's they way it should be. At least it worked
out for them here, as I see it. The critics were sharply divided on
Kingpin, but you can count me in the "pro"camp.
The Farrellys made three very funny films when they
started out their careers: Dumb and Dumber (1994), Kingpin (1996), and
There's Something About Mary (1998). The next 12 years didn't produce as
many laughs, and those first three films remain in the top three slots on
their filmography as ranked by the IMDb rating.
Oh, I know the Bros are trying to grow up but, dammit, I love
those three films and wish they'd get back in that immature groove.
Maturity is vastly overrated. Especially in comedy.