15- “Kingpin” #52PickUp

As Comedy Month continues on #52PickUp, I watch one of my favorite comedies from the Farrelly Brothers:


Kingpin. That’s right. If you’re debating the validity of this film in the Farrelly Brothers pantheon, then either A: You haven’t seen this; or B. You don’t remember their top-loaded “pantheon” as I do.

What’s with the pointing, anyway?

But Kingpin is so much more. It has some gross-out humor like the following film, There’s Something About Mary, but it is in my mind a far better film.

And a much better use of Lin Shaye.

The film follows young, up and coming amateur bowler Roy Munson, who has been blessed with natural bowling talent. His rise looks to be meteoric, that is until he beats a rival bowler, Ernie McCracken.

“Call me Big Ern”

Ernie (ahem!) sorry: Big Ern introduces Roy to the underbelly of bowling hustling and it is here that his life changes forever. After a sour player gets wind of the hustle, Big Ern takes off, leaving Roy with his aggressors.


Almost twenty years later Roy is a washed-out, drunk loser. He squeaks through life by tricking people, essentially hustling in everyday life. People call it “life hacks” today. Giggle. It appears that Roy leaned into this behavior instead of walking away from it.

It is when Roy’s trying to make a buck that he meets Ishmael, an Amish who is a fantastic bowler. Roy coerces him to join him on a trip to Reno, Nevada in an effort to win an Open Bowling Tournament for $1,000,000.

On the way across the country, they try to hustle a bad man (played by Farrelly Bros. regular Rob Moran) and it is here that they meet the third wheel of this operation: Claudia (played by the delectable Vanessa Angel) who propels them further to their goal.

You know, I can’t put my nipple finger on it, but for some reason, hustling became much easier with Claudia.

Ishmael soon falls into the lifestyle of booze, drugs, and other vices distancing himself further from his culture and religion with every swig & every puff. Eventually it gets to rock-bottom levels.

So disturbing. (You’re welcome)

Where/ when did I first see it?

This was another one of myriad movies I would rent from the video market back home (and quite often too). My brother and I were anticipating its release because we’d seen the trailer for the film before other movies. So… 1997? Yeah, 1997. The year of my first movie renaissance.

This scene sold it for me in the trailer.

How does it hold up?

It’s honestly a far better movie now than it was for me as a kid. I am able to relate to the characters more closely now. I understand their plight and their personal demons with which they battle.

The jokes are in the ilk of typical Farrelly Brothers movies (even if they didn’t write it), but they are still extremely funny and I recommend it to anyone who would like dirty humor.

What did I like about it and why?

So yeah, that humor? I like that. The blue humor, the acting– I mean Bill Murray is one of the best movie villains of our time, because he’s someone you truly enjoy watching on-screen. Even a turn as a heel can’t make you hate Bill Murray.

And that hair.

Speaking of acting, the trio of actors at the forefront are all perfect in their roles. Each character has their own motivations, storylines, and purpose. That’s the mark of a well-developed character. These motivations are played for laughs mostly, but it doesn’t undercut their effectiveness.

And for being an underdog sports movie, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I was involved with the final act. I was essentially watching a bowling tournament on ESPN 2 and it was riveting.

Lessons Learned?

  1. Never give up on your dreams or you’ll end up alone and “Munsoned.”
  2. Vanessa Angel almost played Xena, but couldn’t fly to New Zealand due to illness. I wish she had more roles because she never attained the status she just may have deserved.
  3. Bill Murray is an improvisational genius.


Where can you see it?

Check out Kingpin on CanIStream.It?

-Jamie (@GuyOnAWire)


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