Kingpin

on July 26, 1996 by Joseph McBride
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   Next to "Kingpin," the Farrelly brothers' last movie, "Dumb & Dumber," looks like a sophisticated comedy by Ernst Lubitsch. The goofy charm of "Dumb & Dumber" is largely absent from this bizarre grab-bag of grossout humor and sports melodrama. An ad campaign promising nonstop adolescent hijinks does not prepare the viewer for grotesque attempts to tug the heartstrings over the plight of Roy Munson (Woody Harrelson), a one-time champion bowler reduced to drunken squalor after his hand is amputated. What starts out as a broad parody of "The Hustler" turns into something that can't make up its dim mind whether it wants to be farcical or sincere.
   Harrelson so convincingly inhabits the dismal lowlife role of Munson that the jokes about his hardships seem especially nasty and depressing. The most revolting scene has Munson vomiting uncontrollably after being forced to have sex with his scrawny gargoyle of a landlady (Lin Shaye) to avoid being evicted. A noisy gutterball, "Kingpin" seldom reaches above such crude humor involving bodily functions and heavy-handed spoofs of "The Graduate," "Witness," "Showgirls" and Jerry Lewis telethons.
   Also wasted is an amiable performance by Randy Quaid as Ishmael, a naive Amish farmer with a pageboy haircut and a gift for knocking down tenpins. While on the road with Munson as his manager, Ishmael has a ball with his endless appetite for corruption, but the Rysher/Motion Picture Corp. of America production keeps beating gags into the ground, even putting Ishmael in drag for an appearance at a strip joint. The sight of hulking, hairy-chested Quaid in skimpy lingerie and heavy makeup is truly nightmarish. Vanessa Angel is hopelessly adrift in a bimbo role, flipflopping nonsensically from sympathetic to villainous, but Bill Murray smoothly camps it up as Big Ern, the mean, narcissistic bowling champ with a Conway Twitty pompadour. Starring Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid, Vanessa Angel, Bill Murray and Chris Elliot. Directed by Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly. Written by Barry Fanaro and Mort Nathan. Produced by Brad Krevoy, Steve Stabler and Bradley Thomas. An MGM release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for crude sex-related humor and a drug scene. Running time: 113 min
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