Kingpin (Blu-ray)

October 10, 2014 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Two decades ago, Peter and Bobby Farrelly made a name for themselves with Dumb and Dumber. Or did they? After watching the new retrospective featurette included on this disc, I was surprised to learn that they actually had a hard time getting new scripts. Dumb and Dumber was viewed as a Jim Carrey movie and the Farrelly’s were “lucky to be attached to it.” That’s pretty hard to imagine as the Farrelly’s have had great success with films since like There’s Something About Mary and Me, Myself and Irene but no one ever said that Hollywood was a logical place. And, c’mon, aren’t we hard-pressed for movies about bowling?  I used to bowl all the time and, admittedly, I have a lot more fun on the golf course, but there’s a certain charm to the sport.  Combine that with the talents of Bill Murray, Woody Harrelson and Randy Quaid and it sets the stage for a pretty decent comedy.

Roy Munson (Woody Harrelson) is an up and coming bowler who mistakenly gets involved with ego-maniac “Big” Ernie McCracken (Bill Murray). Big Ernie sets up Roy as part of a hustle and let’s Roy take the fall (the “fall” in this case is his bowling hand). Time passes and Roy delves into the dark reaches of alcoholism, letting his bowling career pass him by. However he meets Ishmael (Randy Quaid), an Amish bowling prodigy, and convinces him to be his trainer. Traveling around, the duo start to make their mark on the sport, but “Big” Ern is literally the man to beat. And so the stage is set for the tournament where Ishmael is set to take on “Big” Ern. Will he prevail or will the jerk with the worst haircut in cinema history walk away with the prize?

Kingpin is hilarious. I’d forgotten how funny the  movie was and how entertaining Harrelson, Murray and Quaid really are. While this wasn’t the financial powerhouse that Mary was, it still set the stage for their future films and, as mentioned above, we needed a movie about bowling!  I have no idea about the licensing of films and their respective distribution rights, but I do remember this being an MGM movie and DVD. This is now a Paramount title who, ironically enough, licenses out a majority of their films to Warner. Go figure. Still, it’s nice to have this on Blu-ray and for those who haven’t yet see this little gem – it’s worth checking out.

Video: How’s it look?

The print has obviously been cleaned up since its DVD release back in the late 90’s, but it’s not perfect. Then again I wasn’t expecting it to be. The 2.35:1 AVC HD image looks brighter and sports a more robust color palette, but there are still a few blips and some dirt on the print (notably in the outdoor scenes). Still, detail has been improved and the film has a much more overall cleaner look and feel to it. I don’t remember being able to see the “rubber-ish-ness” (that’s a word, I assure you) of Roy’s hand prior to this, but the HD image really does bring out some of the little nuances that I wasn’t able to see in the DVD. It’s an improvement, for sure.

Audio: How’s it sound?

An upgraded DTS HD Master Audio track replaces the previous Dolby Digital one found on the DVD. While not an audio powerhouse, the movie does sport a variety of interesting surround sounds that keep the action moving. The Farrelly Brothers are known for their soundtracks and this sports a pretty good array of songs from the late 70’s (think disco).  Vocals are strong and crisp, the front stage handles the majority of the action and the surrounds lend a bit of support as well. It’s a good, though fairly standard, comedic mix.

Supplements: What are the extras?

There’s a sticker that touts this as this being the first time on Blu-ray. True, but what else is new?

  • Theatrical and Extended Cuts – Two versions of the movie are present on this Blu-ray, the theatrical cut as well as the 4 minute longer Extended edition. There’s not a lot of difference aside from a few more lewd and extended scenes. Either one should be fine, though since it’s there – I’d go for the Extended cut.
  • Audio Commentary – This is the same track that appeared on the DVD from the 90’s, but it’s still entertaining. We learn a few things about the film: Woody is not a good bowler, Randy Quaid is and the horse in the Amish country is a camera hog! It’s an entertaining track and a good listen.
  • Kingpin: Extra Frames – The new supplement is this 20 minute featurette with the Farrelly Brothers. We get some archived footage with Harrelson and some other members of the crew, but we really get a good idea as to how this movie came to be, their trouble in casting it (Harrelson and Peter Farrelly were roommates in the 80’s for a few years while Harreleon was on Cheers) and so forth. It’s a good little feature and it’s nice to see them revisit one of the films that made them who they are today.
  • Theatrical Trailer

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