Today! Because sometimes a bowler just has to face the music –
Directed by the Farrelly Brothers (x3)
Starring Woody Harrelson (x4), Randy Quaid (x2), Bill Murray (x4), Vanessa Angel, Chris Elliott, Willie Garson (x3), Googy Gress (x2), Lin Shaye, William Jordan, Prudence Wright Holmes, Richard Tyson, Zen Gesner
The Farrellys direct precursor to There’s Something About Mary, Kingpin is cut from very much the same cloth, with slightly lesser results. However! While I recognize it seems borderline insane that the four current Two-Timer directors are Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen, Paul Thomas Anderson, and the Farrelly Brothers, rest assured, this is their last appearance on the list. Dumb comedies are only gonna rise so high! Or are they?
No, I recognize Mary as the superior film, to be sure – I guess I just got a little tired of it, as it became this giant, omnipresent comedy two years later, endlessly referenced and pointed back to for years to come. And this largely swallowed Kingpin, a movie I much prefer for two big reasons – 1) the fact that Woody Harrelson’s broken bowler Roy Munson is so defeated by life that he ends up in Scranton, PA to start the film (Shoutout, hometown!) and 2) Bill Murray is beyond words amazing as the villain “Big Ern” Ernie McCracken. Like a lot of ’90s comedies, it’s pretty mean-spirited in retrospect – not just Big Ern being a complete asshole, but the movie’s general take on everybody – but I think it works better than some because there is a genuine relationship that forms between Munson and Randy Quaid’s backwards Amish bowler Ishmael, so that the overarching takeaway feeling from the film is positive, as opposed to pitiable.
And yes, Murray steals the whole thing with his wild, douchebag star bowling monster, ruining Munson’s life and setting up a terrifically comic/dramatic big game sports showdown to finish the film. The over-the-top-ness of this character in the hands of Murray was bound to turn out this way. But it should not be understated how great Harrelson is as Munson – leading the film through one of the more pathetic characters you’ll ever see. I had this conversation with somebody once – I can’t remember, whoever you are – about how virtually all actors fall into being thought of as better in comedies or dramas, even if they made a lot of both. For example – Jack Nicholson is great in comedies, but I think everyone would immediately associate him with dramas. Robin Williams was a terrific dramatic actor, but he’s obviously classified as a comedian first. The only modern people we came up with that seemed to split this definition more or less evenly were Tom Hanks and Woody Harrelson, despite both starting out in sitcoms. And thus, even though this is a full-on comedy, Harrelson’s Munson is infused with a surprising depth and pathos, making the tragedy of his life all the funnier. Is this a stretch, for a Farrelly Brothers movie? Probably!
It is largely a gross-out comedy preoccupied with bull semen, boobs, bowler-on-bowler violence, and misuse of a urinal, so it required the talent of its leads to elevate this movie out of the low-brow-ness of a Say It Ain’t So or the unconscionable cruelty of a Shallow Hal. But I totally understand if you haven’t given this movie a second thought over the last twenty years. It may just be speaking to me, for all those lovely Scranton scenes, not even filmed in Northeast Pennsylvania.
Along with the Farrellys, the Acting wing adds Harrelson (#368 Anger Management, #343 White Men Can’t Jump, #289 The Hunger Games) and Murray (#328 The Man Who Knew Too Little, #319 The Darjeeling Limited, #287 Stripes) to the Four-Timers – only the fifth and sixth members, so far – as well as Farrelly alumni from #313 Fever Pitch Willie Garson joining the Three-Timers, with his role in #310 Mars Attacks! And we’ve got two new Two-Timers to complete the ceremony, as #318 Independence Day’s Randy Quaid and Farrelly alum from #286 Me, Myself, and Irene Googy Gress are inducted as well!