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according to the publicity material , with this movie the directors " hope to restore good old-fashioned bowling to its rightful place in the mainstream of american consciousness . "
hmm .
you never know , they just might be on to something .
what with the rise of geek chic , lounge music and seventies fashion , the ever-contrary kids of the nineties might just latch on to bowling as another terminally unhip bastion of tackyana to claim as their own .
but then , i doubt if kingpin will have anything to do with it .
it's cheesy all right , but connoisseurs of bad taste will find this film exudes that bland smell of stale jokes rather than the invigorating stink of true kitsch .
that's a shame , because , in the first ten minutes or so the film promises to be a lot more .
woody harrelson plays the hotshot bowler on the rise , roy munson .
the movie opens in the fifties with roy's dad dishing out the reader's digest/gumpian wisdom in scoopfuls , shifting to the 70s for a hilarious spoof of saturday night fever .
the sardonic tone of the proceedings is much enhanced by the presence of bill murray , as the delectably slimy big ern mcracken .
it's thanks to murray that the first quarter of kingpin seems so good - he gives the wry , derisive edge to this otherwise rather unfocused comedy .
mccracken dupes munson into a hustling job , then abandons him to an angry mob who mangle roy's hand .
then it's fast forward 17 years later when munson is a fat , balding loser with a prosthetic rubber hand .
he's hopeless until he meets ishmael ( randy quaid ) , an amish amateur bowler that munson takes on as protege .
so together they set out for the million dollar bowling tournament in reno , picking up pretty hustler claudia ( vanessa angel ) on the way .
with the exit of bill murray , the filmmakers seem to have only one direction to go , and that's . . .
dumb and dumber .
yes , indeed , kingpin is brought to you by those modern proponents of laxative humour , peter and bobby farrelly , the directors of the aforementioned jim carrey vehicle .
so , prepare for much slaparound comedy with flying rubber hands , distended nipples , ridiculous hair and bull semen .
get set for stock fish-out-of-water situations when city-boy roy puts on a beard and tries to blend in with the amish community , or when suaku straitlaced ishmael takes on smoking , striptease and unchristian neighbour-socking .
now , don't get me wrong , there's nothing wrong with cheap humour , and i had my fair share of lavatorial laughs with woody and randy .
the trouble is that these jokes aren't bold or funny enough to drive a movie that bumbles along without much sense of direction .
it lurches from sports movie to amish-mocking to road-trip to sentimental melodrama , ( pausing for a broadside spoof of indecent proposal , and many shameless plugs for the accompanying pop soundtrack ) , never quite getting it all together .
some gags fall flat from a lack of build-up , while there are bits and pieces in the movie that simply don't do anything .
why the long , unfunny fight in the car park ?
why two of these ?
why does that guy wear mascara , or that guy have a glass bowling ball with a rose in it ?
the film is full of these half-thought-through ideas that give the impression of any old gaffer , grip or makeup artist throwing in random stuff and saying , " wouldn't that be funny ? " .
well , no , actually .
the actors don't do the movie much favours either .
woody harrelson comes off okay , plausibly acting dumb , smart , cynical or innocent when the implausible script calls for it , but randy quaid is a ceaseless ham , and vanessa angel has no talent ( like schwarzenegger , she seems more convincing playing a computer-creation than a human -- take the tv series weird science . . . please
) .
even murray hams it up when he reappears in the movie's climax .
all in all , a fairly useless attempt at comedy , and a certified no-hoper at kickstarting the bowling renaissance .
we'll have to look to a reinspired john waters , or perhaps somebody from down under ( " strictly bowling " , anyone ? ) for the definitive bowling comedy .
the flying inkpot's rating system : * wait for the video .
* * a little creaky , but still better than staying at home with gotcha !
* * * pretty good , bring a friend .
* * * * amazing , potent stuff .
* * * * * perfection .
see it twice .
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