Blu-ray Review: Kingpin

Kingpin was the Farrelly Brothers followup to Dumb & Dumber back in 1996, and while Dumb & Dumber became a comedy classic almost instantly, Kingpin took more of a cult following scenic route. The Farrellys admit that they thought they’d be getting scripts thrown at them left and right after the success of Dumb & Dumber; however, that wasn’t the case. They say that studios viewed that as a Jim Carrey vehicle and success story, which made Kingpin a struggle to get greenlit. The film all but tanked at the box office, and it didn’t become a success until it hit video store shelves later that year.

So how does it hold up 18 years down the road? Well, comedy is subjective, so that really depends on the viewer. If you’re a fan of the Farrelly brothers’ film body of work then you’ve got an idea of what to expect from Kingpin (though the pair didn’t write it). While it doesn’t deliver the sidesplitting laughter of Dumb & Dumber or There’s Something About Mary — both of which still leave your stomach feeling like you just did 1000 crunches — it does serve up a few strong laughs from some pretty entertaining characters.

The movie stars Woody Harrelson as Roy Munsen, a man who was raised and trained by his father to become the best bowler the world has ever seen. Unfortunately, Munsen crosses paths with Ernie McCracken (Bill Murray) early in his career, and due to a mix of jealousy and just bad sportsmanship, McCracken abandons Munsen at a bowling alley late one night after the pair are caught scamming the locals. This move costs Munsen both his right hand, and his bowling career.

Flash forward 17 years and Munsen is now an alcoholic bowling supplies salesman with nothing going for him. That is until he crosses paths with a young Amish man named Ishmael (Randy Quaid) at a bowling alley. Roy sees potential in Ishmael and takes him under his wing so the pair can go to Las Vegas and win the biggest bowling tournament in the country that has a one million dollar cash prize.

The story itself is a sweet one, mixed with a solid amount of the Farrellys gross-out humour. But it’s the characters and the actors behind them that really make this movie stronger than it might have been otherwise. The chemistry between Harrelson and Quaid feels authentic, and even though these are some recognizable stars, they do morph into these characters, over the top they may be at times. Murray is a supporting character — more like an extended cameo — but he steals every scene he’s in, which shouldn’t be a shock to anyone. It’s especially fun to learn some of the lines that Murray came up with on the spot, much like his famous “Cinderella story” in Caddyshack.

A lot has changed since 1996, and one could say that audiences may be desensitized to the Farrelly brothers and their style of humour by this point — or at least see it as tame compared to some movies in recent years. That said, Kingpin is still an entertaining film and a fun way to spend 90 minutes with some guaranteed laughs — just don’t expect it to allow you to skip your regular ab workout routine by the time it’s over.

The Blu-ray transfer given to Kingpin makes it the highest quality version of the film available. There are some beautiful scenic shots at times — which may sound odd for a movie of this type — and they look even better in HD. The audio comes through nicely, with perfect dialogue, sound and music mixes throughout.

On the special features front, we’re given a pretty fun updated behind-the-scenes feature, as well as a commentary.

Director’s Commentary — There’s a director’s commentary available with the extended version of the film, and it’s clear how much fun these guys had making the movie. If you’re someone who’s a big fan of the film, or the brothers, then this is a worthwhile listen.

Kingpins: Extra Frames with the Farrelly Brothers — This feature comes in at just under 20 minutes in length, and it mixes together a recent look-back interview with the Farrelly brothers with old interviews of Harrelson, Murray and even themselves talking about making the movie. It’s interesting to hear how they didn’t have scripts thrown at them after the success of Dumb & Dumber, and how it was even harder in some respects after this movie didn’t do as well as predicted.

Paramount Pictures presents Kingpin. Directed by: Peter and Bobby Farrelly. Written by: Barry Fanaro & Mort Nathan. Starring: Woody Harrelson, Bill Murray, Randy Quaid, Vanessa Angel. Running time: 113 Minutes (Theatrical) / 117 Minutes (Extended). Rating: PG-13. Released: Oct. 14, 2014.

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