It's too easy to say that the new bowling comedy Kingpin lands in the gutter. Not very accurate, either. The gutter is a level of accomplishment that co-directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly don't even attempt to reach.
The Farrelly brothers previously combined to create another ode to stupidity called Dumb and Dumber, starring Jim Carrey. This follow-up could be subtitled Gross and Grosser, with its rapt attention to human and animal body functions, grotesque supporting characters and mean-spirited humor. Kingpin is a movie where actors' laugh quotients are directly related to the rotten state of their teeth or how much pain and humiliation they can withstand.
Kingpin traces the cross-country misadventures of a lane-loser named Roy Munson (Woody Harrelson), who takes an Amish dimwit named Ishmael (Randy Quaid) with a knack for putting his bowling ball "in the pocket" for big scores.
Roy's goal is two-fold: use the dupe to make a fortune, and exact revenge on a cocky competitor (Bill Murray, less funny than usual) who ended Roy's career in nasty fashion. Along the way, Roy and Ishmael encounter bowling hustlers, rescue a woman (newcomer Vanessa Angel) and turn the Amish farmlands into a mosh pit (A-mish pit, perhaps?) with Blues Traveler doing the honors onstage. We know all these plot strands will lead to a showdown on the lanes. The only tension stems from wondering when the Farrellys will grow up.
This is a movie in which one sparkling bit of wit occurs when someone asks if you can get sick from drinking urine, even if it's your own; where a spoof of The Graduate turns into an older-woman affair to make you retch; where an amputee's prosthetic hand inspires more groan-inducing jokes than you could count on two prosthetic hands. Women are measured by the height of their skirts or the depth of their cleavage. Kingpin gives new meaning to the comedy term "gag."
This is now the point at which we're supposed to say: That's not funny, that's sick. Thing is, some of Kingpin's low-lowbrow humor is pretty darn funny, in a disgusting sort of way. I wouldn't wish to admit to Mom or good churchfolk how much I laughed, or what got me started, but as Steve Martin once declared, comedy is not pretty.
Pacing is not a strong point for the Farrellys. Kingpin is at least 20 minutes too long, and the excess material that could be trimmed is easily spotted. The worst thing any stand-up comedian can do is stay onstage too long for his audience's attention span, and the same goes for comedy movies. Yet, we're assured after a while that the filmmakers will bolt from their temporary doldrums with a cascade of tastelessness.
MOVIE REVIEW: C
Directors: Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid, Vanessa Angel, Bill Murray
Screenplay: Barry Fanaro, Mort Nathan
Rating: PG-13; profanity, sexual situations, violence
Running time: 114 min.