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Kingpin (1996, Woody Harrelson, Bill Murray)



Before they brought a new meaning to the term gross profit with There’s Something About Mary , the Farrelly brothers (Peter and Bobby) made this equally funny comedy set in the unlikely world of tenpin bowling. The laughs come thick and fast as the Farrellys produce their trademark mix of outrageous gags (the main one this time involves a prosthetic hand), outré set-pieces and sentimental love story.

Kingpin starts in 1979, when Roy Munson (Woody Harrelson) has the world at his fingertips. Recently crowned bowling champion, he inadvertently gets mixed up in a scam with duplicitous fellow bowler Big Ern (Bill Murray) and when the punters realise they’re being hustled, they take revenge on Munson by placing his hand down the ball-return machine. By the mid-90s, he has become an alcoholic travelling salesman with his name a euphemism for a spectacular screw-up.

Now sporting a hook hand, pot belly, balding pate and wardrobe to die (of shame) for, Roy gets an unexpected chance for redemption when he discovers a bowling genius in the shape of Ishmael Boorg (Randy Quaid), an Amish man. Roy tutors Ishmael with the aim of entering him for the national championships. En route to the finals in Reno, the men meet the attractive Claudia (Vanessa Angel), who bowls both of them over. With Ish seeking the prize money to pay for his community’s mortgage, the scene is set for a grand confrontation with Big Ern to see who wins the grand prize.

‘When I read Kingpin , I thought it was the most hilarious script I’d ever read,’ says Woody Harrelson, ‘and aside from being funny, the story had great heart.’ It also contains pastiches of movies such as Witness, The Graduate and Indecent Proposal (which featured Harrelson, of course) and set-pieces to rival There’s Something About Mary for tastelessness.

production details
US | 114 minutes | 1996
Directors: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Script: Barry Fanaro, Mort Nathan,

Woody Harrelson as Roy Munson
Randy Quaid as Ishmael Boorg
Vanessa Angel as Claudia
Bill Murray as Ernie McCracken
Nancy Frey-Jarecki as Sarah Boorg
Richard Tyson as Owner Of Stiffy’s
Lin Shaye as Landlady
Zen Gesner as Thomas
Googy Gress as Lancaster Bowl Manager
Will Rothhaar as Young Roy
Sayed Badreya as Fatima
Chris Elliott as The Gambler
William Jordan as Mr. Boorg
Prudence Wright Holmes as Mrs. Boorg
Rob Moran as Stanley Osmanski
Daniel Greene as Calvert Munson
Mark Charpentier as 1979 Bowling Buddy
Brad Faxon as 1979 Bowling Buddy
Linda Carola as 1979 Waitress
Danny Murphy as Beaver Valley Bowl Manager
David Shackelford as Red Neck Stutterer
Rick Barker as Beaver Bowl Hustler
Gretchen Treser as Make-Out Queen
Willie Garson as Purse Snatcher
Suzan Hughes as Cocktail Waitress
Michael Corrente as Scranton Wino
Hank Brandt as Bowling Priest
Libby Langdon as Skidmark’s Squirrel
Liza Oxnard as Tavern Drunk
Lorri Bagley as Beautiful Dancer
Steve Tyler as Gas Station Attendant
Nancy Farrelly as Nouchi’s Gal
Cynthia Farrelly Gesner as Silver Legacy Maid