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Featured Blu-ray Review: Kingpin

October 12th, 2014

Kingpin - Buy from Amazon: Blu-ray

Kingpin was not a hit when it was first released nearly 20 years ago. It earned mixed reviews and barely matched its production budget domestically. However, it became a huge cult hit on the home market. This week it comes out on Blu-ray for the first time. It is also the first time I've seen it. Was it worth the wait? Or was I smart skipping it the first time it came out?

The Movie

The film begins in 1969 in the small town of Ocelot, Iowa, where we meet Rory as a young boy playing bowling with his father. Ten years later, Rory Munson is the winner of the state amateur bowling championship, which allows him to go on the pro-tour. He wins his first tournament, topping Ernie McCracken. He isn't able to celebrate for long, as someone puts sugar in his gas tank and blows his engine. Fortunately, Ernie McCracken shows up and offers to help him make some extra money. They will hustle people with their bowling skill. They win big, but get caught and as a result, Rory has his hand shoved into the ball return machine and loses it.

Flash forward 17 years, which was the present when the movie came out, and Rory is a washed up bowling equipment salesman. While trying to make a sale, he hears Ishmael Boorg throw a strike and just hearing it is enough to know the kid has talent, but is a little raw. He asks Ishmael what his average is and its 265 to 270. That's good enough to be professional. That's not only good enough to be a professional. That's good enough to win championships. Unfortunately, Ishmael is Amish and not interested in the world outside of his community. After nearly getting thrown out of his apartment for being late on the rent, Rory decides to pretend to be Amish and convince Ishmael to go on the pro tour with him. He's able to convince Ishmael to go with him, but only because the community needs $500,000 or they will lose their land.

There is one problem. Ishmael isn't really a 270 bowler. You see, the Amish do whatever other people do, plus a half. So instead of bowling 10 frames, he bowls 15 frames and an average of 180 is not enough to be a professional. He decides to train him instead of heading back home and along the way, the pair pick up Claudia, the ex-girlfriend to a vengeful mobster Ishmael beat in a bowling match.

I am not sure why this movie has become a cult hit. It is just not funny. Nearly all of the jokes fall into one of four categories: 1. Rory has a fake hand. 2. Ishmael is Amish. 3. Treating bowlers like they are poker aces or pool sharks. 4. Gross-out humor. What's missing? Character humor. Or I could be meaner and point out what's missing is humor that is funny. We first see Rory's hook hand when he uses it to turn off an alarm clock and it gets stuck. They then repeat this joke twice in the next scene, albeit in a slightly different manner. It isn't a funny joke the first time we see it, it isn't funny the next two times, and by the time we see a joke about Rory's fake hand for the twentieth time, it is just pathetic. The energy also lags through most of the movie. Not even Bill Murray's performance as the main villain is enough to save this movie.

The Extras

The extras are on the disappointing side. The old audio commentary track is back on the extended version of the movie, while there is a new 19-minute retrospective on the film. That's it.

The technical presentation is good, but not great. The level of detail is good, as are the colors, but this was never a visually intensive film to begin with, so you can't blame the transfer for that. Likewise, the audio is clear, but the 5.1 surround sound track isn't very active.

The Verdict

Kingpin is nowhere near the best the Farrelly Brothers have to offer. Meanwhile, the Blu-ray doesn't have a lot of extras, nor does it push the limited of high definition. Maybe if it were a cheap Blu-ray, it would be worth picking up, but it costs more than $20, which is more than a lot of first run releases.

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Filed under: Video Review, Kingpin, Vanessa Angel, Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly, Woody Harrelson, Bill Murray, Randy Quaid