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Without question, KINGPIN ($15) is one of the most hilarious low brow comedies to ever be produced. The first time I saw the film, I laughed so hard that the tears in my eyes made it difficult for me to see most of the movie. KINGPIN comes from the directing duo of Bobby and Peter Farrelly- the brothers responsible for the riotous THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, as well as the brilliant exercise in stupidity- DUMB AND DUMBER. Under the Farrelly's careful guidance, KINGPIN allows no joke to go over the audience's heads. In fact, sophistication is never part of the equation- KINGPIN is chock full of the kind of gross-out humor, tasteless sex jokes and inspired stupidity that have become the Farrelly brother's stock and trade.

KINGPIN stars Woody Harrelson as Roy Munson, a child prodigy of the bowling world, who grows up to be the 1979 state champion. After winning The Odor-Eaters Bowling Championship, Roy would appear to be on his way to fame and glory. Unfortunately, his glory days are short lived when he hooks up with Big Ernie McCracken (Bill Murray), the man he defeated in the bowling championship. Big Ern, as he likes to be called, talks the naive Roy into a scam that end's up costing him his bowling hand. Flash forward seventeen years- Roy is a down on his luck drunk with a hook for a hand. Roy manages to live day to day by trying to sell supplies to bowling alleys. Just when Roy hits rock bottom, he meets Ishmael Boorg (Randy Quaid), an innocent Amish lad (of forty) with an amazing knack for knocking down the pins. Roy sees Ishmael as a diamond in the rough, but he thinks the Amish kid could be his ticket out of the gutter. With coaching, Roy knows that Ishmael could win the million-dollar prize being offered at a Reno bowling tournament. 

However, convincing Ishmael to accompany him to Reno doesn’t prove easy for Roy, who is forced to infiltrate the Amish community just to get at the bowling virtuoso. Eventually, Ishmael decides to go Reno, but only after learning that the bank is about to foreclose on the Amish community’s property. On the road to Reno, circumstance forces Roy and Ishmael take on a beautiful new partner named Claudia (Vanessa Angel), whose natural assets prove invaluable. When the trio finally arrives in Reno, they encounter the final obstacle that stands between them and the prize money- Big Ernie McCracken. The plot may sound like a white trash tragedy, but it plays like a gut-busting laugh riot. If you don’t find KINGPIN funny, you’re either dead… or Amish. The cast also includes Chris Elliott, William Jordan, Richard Tyson and Lin Shaye in an unforgettable performance.

MGM Home Entertainment has made KINGPIN available on DVD in both wide screen and full screen presentations on opposite sides of the DVD. Both versions include four additional minutes of wonderfully "tasteless footage" that bumps the film’s rating to an R. The full screen version is fine, but makes KINGPIN look like it was made for cable film. Purists are going to love the fact the wide screen version not only restores the film’s 2.35:1 aspect ratio, it also includes the 16:9 anamorphic component. The wide screen transfer isn’t likely to make anyone’s jaw drop, but it has a very pleasing image, with respectable levels of sharpness and detail. Colors are very nice, with solid saturation and natural flesh tones. All traces of chroma noise and compression artifacts remained in check throughout the presentation. 

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack delivers good sound, but the mix isn’t showy. Music is a big part of the soundtrack, which the DVD reproduces beautifully. Dialogue is clean, always intelligible and focused in the center channel. The surround channels are used sparingly, but they provide a nice level of ambience and occasional effects. Subtitles are available in English and French. The interactive menus have an amusing design that utilizes animation, music and sound effects. Through the menus one can access the standard scene and language selection features, as well as the DVD’s extras. Anyone who enjoyed the movie will get a kick out of the running audio commentary provided by Bobby and Peter Farrelly. The brothers talk in detail about the production, as well as everyone who showed their face or body part on the screen. They also let it out of the bag that Bill Murray’s brilliant performance is about 99% ad-libbed, like that comes as a big surprise. A theatrical trailer is also included on the DVD.

If you love your comedies as tasteless, vulgar and hilarious as possible, then KINGPIN is for you. Recommended.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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