Woody Harrelson has been a part of many great comedy films, as well as television with Cheers, and now one of his classic feature film comedies, one that some might call underrated, can be seen for free on YouTube movies.
Kingpin is classic comedy, though it may cater to a certain sense of humor. Woody Harrelson stars as Roy Munson, a young bowler who quickly rises to the top. Now out on the professional bowler’s tour, Munson is pitted against Bill Murray’s Ernie “Big Ern” McCracken, a character that Murray inhabits to comedic perfection. His delivery is pitch-perfect, his actions on point, and that hair.
Roy Munson takes out McCracken in the championship game, much to Big Ern’s displeasure. Big Ern has an ego the size of Texas and doesn’t take losing to the young upstart kindly. So, in Big Ern fashion, he takes Roy under his wing for the long play of revenge. Big Ern convinces Roy into hustling to make some extra money. It is a setup that sees Big Ern escaping from while Roy gets caught, so to speak, with his hand in the cookie jar. The locals don’t appreciate being hustled, so they decide to take Roy’s bowling hand.
We flash forward and Woody Harrelson’s Roy, who now wears a hook on his right hand, is an alcoholic salesman of bowling supplies. He has hit the skids and big time. Constantly late on his rent, his only negotiations with his landlady (grotesquely but hilariously played by Lin Shayne) is to trade sex for rent.
One day while Roy is attempting to sell bowling supplies, he hears the familiar sound of a strike being bowled. When he turns around, he meets Ishmael “Ish” Boorg. Randy Quaid plays Ish much like he played another famous character, Cousin Eddie from the National Lampoon’s Vacation movies, with child-like idiotic innocence.
Roy immediately sees potential in Ish, chasing him down to convince Ish to turn pro. Ish politely declines as he is Amish and bowling is a secret he must hide from his family. It takes Roy a bit of time, but he finally convinces Ish’s family to let him leave the farm. The family still isn’t aware of Ish’s secret, but Roy finds out that the family is going to lose their farm to the bank.
Roy begins to mold Ish after himself. The duo take the same path Roy and Big Ern took, winning small tourneys and hustling until Ish gains the eye of Stanley Osmanski, a wealthy bowling enthusiast. Ish and Roy find themselves at Stanley’s mansion, which has a bowling alley in it. They put up a large bet that Ish eventually wins, but Stanley finds out that the money Roy put up was fake, so the boys are back on the run though this time they have Stanley’s abused girlfriend Claudia (Vanessa Angel) with them.
When Roy meets Big Ern again, Big Ern is a big-time professional bowler, his ego even somehow bigger. He goads Roy, causing Ish to defend Roy by taking a swipe at Big Ern. Instead of hitting Big Ern, Ish hits the wall, breaking his bowling hand. Their goal of winning the $1 million prize money in the Reno Open is shot. Or is it?
With Ish unable to bowl, he somehow convinces Roy, even with his prosthetic rubber hand, to enter the tourney. After a rough start, Roy is able to make it through the tourney, where he matches up with Big Ern in the finals. Big Ern puts on a show while Roy matches him pin for pin. It’s a final worthy of watching, rewinding, and watching again. Again, Big Ern and that hair.
Kingpin is the second movie made by the Farrelly Brothers, Bobby and Peter. Their first is a movie you may have heard of, Dumb and Dumber. The duo went on to direct more gross-out comedy with titles such as There’s Something About Mary, Me, Myself, & Irene, Stuck On You, the vastly underrated The Heartbreak Kid, The Three Stooges, and Dumb and Dumber To. “Acquired taste” seems to be the theme of many of their movies.
Although Woody Harrelson’s Roy Munson constantly finds himself in horrifically humorous situations, he is the straight man to both Murray and Quaid. He sets them up so they can bowl him down with the often gross-out humor that the Farrelly Brothers will eventually be known for.
With that said, the humor is not for everyone. Many times, it approaches the level of poor taste but does so without pause or apology, which makes the situations Roy and Ish find themselves in even more hilarious. Bill Murray doesn’t get enough screen time as Big Ern, but when he’s on, he’s on. He’s a riot in every way, shape, and form.
Kingpin was written by the team of Barry Fanaro and Mort Nathan. The pair has a long history of writing comedy together as they have teamed up on television series such as Archie Bunker’s Place, Benson, The Golden Girls, The Fanelli Boys, Pacific Station.
The Farrelly’s were given a $25 million budget to bring “bowling legends” Roy Munson, Ish, and Big Ern McCracken to life. They also got a modest return at the box office, bringing home $32 million.
Over the years, though, the Woody Harrelson movie has turned into a cult classic. Audiences young and old have found Kingpin and have taken to the Farrelly’s early run at humor with some fans going as far as taking on the Roy Munson or Big Ern McCracken names as their social media persona’s.
As for Woody Harrelson, he joined the cast of the hit sitcom Cheers three seasons into its eleven-season run. His comedic turn as bartender Woody allowed him to crossover to features as he found time early in his career in movies such as Doc Hollywood, White Men Can’t Jump, Natural Born Killers, and The Money Train.
From there, Woody Harrelson continued to mix his genres, going from comedy to thriller to drama and back again. One of his more well-known roles came in 2009 when he played zombie-killer extraordinaire Tallahassee in Zombieland. He’d reprise that role one more time ten years later in Zombieland: Double Tap. Next up for Harrelson is another reprisal, this time as Cletus Kennedy in the sequel Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
Well, we’ve said it before, ad nauseam, and we’ll say it again. The Woody Harrelson-led Kingpin is an acquired taste. Once you’ve found the pocket, though, you’ll find it goes down smoother than a seven-ten split. Check out Kingpin below.