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Bobby and Peter Farrelly
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid, Bill Murray, Vanessa Angel, Chris Elliott
Writing Credits:
Barry Fanaro and Mort Nathan

A comedy right up your alley.

A star bowler whose career was prematurely "cut off" hopes to ride a new prodigy to success and riches.

Box Office:
$27 million
Opening Weekend
$5,582,000 on 1,956 Screens
Domestic Gross

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1/16X9
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 117 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 5/18/1999

• Audio Commentary with Directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly
• Trailer


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Kingpin (1996)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 11, 2014)

When Peter and Bobby Farrelly made their filmmaking debut with 1994ís Dumb and Dumber, they scored a major hit. Four years later, they created an even bigger success via 1998ís Thereís Something About Mary.

In between these successes, however, they flopped. While Dumber snared $127 million US and Mary snared $176 million, 1996ís Kingpin took in a mere $24 million. Iíd love to say it qualifies as some sort of lost classic, but unfortunately, the witless Kingpin deserved its fate.

In 1979, Iowa farmboy Roy Munson (Woody Harrelson) defeats sleazy Ernie McCracken (Bill Murray) for the state championship. Before Roy plans to head west to find his fortune in the sport, Ernie convinces him to hustle at a local alley. After they win big bucks, one of the suckers recognizes Roy so the guys punish him by sticking his bowling hand in the ball return.

Fast-forward 17 years and we find Roy as a drunk with little in terms of financial means. One day he meets a talented Amish bowler named Ishmael (Randy Quaid) and becomes the prodigyís manager. We follow their path to hoped-for fame and fortune.

Kingpin offers a comedy in name only. There's so little funny material on display that it's positively stunning, as you'd think that they'd get something right every once in a while, if just by sheer dumb luck.

Actually, the movie starts off with some promise, almost completely due to the presence of Bill Murray. As we learn in the DVDís audio commentary, Murray literally threw away his script and made up the vast majority of his lines himself. As such, it's not a coincidence that Murrayís parts of Kingpin become the only scenes that offer any laughs.

Unfortunately, Murray essentially departs the picture after about the first 15 minutes. We see more of him toward the end of the film, but by then it's a case of too little, too late. No matter how hard he tries, Murray canít redeem the movie after all the unfunny nonsense that crops up along the way.

Other than Murray, nothing in Kingpin makes a positive impact. The rest of the movie displays a mush of inane comic antics that rarely approach the realm of "funny." Many of the same lousy jokes get repeated over and over again, and there are only so many prosthetic hand gags one man can take; that prop gets way overused.

Outside of Murray, the actors function as virtual nonentities - they just take up space. Well, that's not completely true; Vanessa Angel looks really hot. She couldn't act her way out of the proverbial paper bag and her comic skills are nonexistent, but she does get the old pulse racing.

Woody Harrelson and Randy Quaid are talented and likable actors, but they're completely wasted here. Neither possesses the comedic skills necessary to make Kingpin watchable. Actually, I'm not sure anyone is that good; if Murray hadn't scrapped the script, he probably would have bombed as well.

Way too much of the filmís material replaces cleverness and wit with simple outrageousness and shock. There's nothing funny about Woody Harrelson getting it on with a skanky old lady and then vomiting - it's just disgusting. Woody with a "milk mustache" of bull semen? Same deal.

It requires no skill to develop these kinds of gags; you just have to be someone who likes to say and do socially inappropriate things. The Farrelly brothers are the kid in your school who would eat a worm just to get a reaction; they wouldn't know a good joke or a funny scene if it bopped them in the butt.

Kingpin also runs far too long. The movie pushes the two-hour mark and it shows. The story - or what little plot we find - slowly meanders its way toward the film's inevitable conclusion. The film wouldn't have been any funnier, but a tighter cut - say, in the 90 to 100 minute range - would have made it more bearable; the tedium of the enterprise makes the lack of humor even more difficult to stand.

As it stands, Kingpin winds up as a too long, too stupid attempt at comedy. Even with a talented cast, the movie canít deliver any form of entertainment.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C-/ Bonus C

Kingpin appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 and in a 1.33:1 version on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Though inconsistent, the movie often looked reasonably good.

Sharpness was mostly positive. Wide shots showed some softness, and the limitations of SD-DVD meant the movie never looked especially distinctive, but it offered fairly nice clarity the majority of the time. Jagged edges and moirť effects cropped up but remained minor, and only light edge haloes appeared.

In terms of print flaws, these also seemed modest. I saw occasional specks and marks, but nothing significant occurred. However, the sides of the frame sometimes looked murky and dark, as if there was some weird blotchiness on the sides. Again, this was infrequent, but it creayed distractions when it occurred.

Colors were decent. The movie opted for a natural palette that showed average vivacity; the hues seemed acceptable but not as lively as Iíd like. Blacks were somewhat inky, and shadows looked a bit on the muddy side; neither issue seemed substantial, though. The image had too many ups and downs to be above a ďC+Ē, but I thought it held up surprisingly well for a transfer from 1999.

Donít expect much from the highly restrained Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Kingpin, as it offered little in terms of sonic ambition. In the front, the mix presented mediocre stereo spread and mild breadth from effects. Occasionally the track delivered a smidge of movement or involvement, but these instances were minor and forgettable.

Even less material came from the surrounds, as they stayed passive. In truth, the listener would be hard-pressed to cite many instances in which the back speakers came to life at all, as they seemed virtually silent. Granted, I donít expect much five-channel pizzazz from a comedy like this, but the imaging appeared awfully lackluster nonetheless.

Audio quality was also bland. Speech seemed intelligible and reasonably natural, which made it the strongest aspect of the track. Music stayed clear but didnít have much range, as the songs/score seemed somewhat flat and thin. Effects worked about the same, as they were clean but without much heft. Even with the limited expectations that came with a movie of this sort, I thought the soundtrack was a little below average.

In addition to the filmís trailer, we find an audio commentary with directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at cast and crew, sets and locations, story and characters, shooting the bowling, editing and deleted scenes, music, and related subjects.

When I first listened to this commentary in 1999, I thought it was a meandering bore. Some of those impressions remain, but I can locate more value in it now.

The negative comes from the brothersí fondness for naming names. Sometimes it feels like they do nothing other than tell us the identities of everyone who appears on screen, most of whom appear to be friends and family. That gets old fast, and the occasional dead spots also donít help the commentary.

When the brothers invest in the filmmaking process, though, they offer a pretty good chat. I like their thoughts about their comedy preferences/choices, and they tell us a lot about their editing/storytelling decisions. They also prove to be more self-critical than expected, as they relate what they donít think works in the movie. Its status as annotated credit roll means the commentary becomes a chore at times, but it does give us some good info along the way.

Despite a mix of talented actors, Kingpin canít overcome its own basic idiocy. The movie relies on a long series of witless gags and wears out its welcome well before it finishes. The DVD brings us average picture and audio along with an inconsistent commentary. This becomes a mediocre release for a bad movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: -- Stars Number of Votes: 0
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