The Farrelly Brothers have become the de facto godfathers of the New Age in gross-out humor, and while their fascination with zippers, purgatives and hair gel comes across as icky, the truth is the stories the Farrellys tell are very, very sweet. More than Dumb And Dumber and There’s Something About Mary, Kingpin possesses an innocent charm and sneaky sweetness that leaves you feeling good even while you’re being grossed out.
In Kingpin, Roy Munsen (Woody Harrelson) is a naïve former high school state bowling champion who leaves his smalltown to find paydirt in the world of bowling. Instead, Roy befriends the unscrupulous grifter, "Big Ern" (Bill Murray). One thing leads to another, and Roy winds up with a horribly mangled hand.
Flash forward twenty years. Roy is now a rounder himself, embittered and self-hating, working as a salesmen. At a bowling alley on his route, Roy witnesses the amazing bowling skills of a young Amish man, Ishmael (Randy Quaid) and sees a cash cow. In a hilarious sequence of events, Roy disguises himself as Amish and tries to convince Ishmael to join him on the bowler circuit. Ishmael eventually agrees and together they hit the road, Roy teaching Ishmael the rules of the game. Joined by the sexy, Claudia (Vanessa Angel) on the lam from her boyfriend, Roy and Ishmael set off for Vegas and the national championship, where Roy is given an opportunity to exact revenge on Big Ern.
The gags come quickly and furiously, but with a sophistication and subtlety that elevates Kingpin from lowbrow wacky and parody a la Pat Proft to a rarified air that equals the best of the Zuckers, Mel Brooks and early Woody Allen.