I’m sure there’s an audience for this early Farrelly Brothers opus. I’m equally sure I am not that audience, even though I will admit that Kingpin (1996) is a cast-iron classic when stacked up against the brothers’ newest opus, The Heartbreak Kid. Still, much of what I don’t like about both films is the same. No, it’s not the raunchiness. In fact, I can only admire the extremes to which the Farrellys will go for a gag in Kingpin (though it would be nice if they had a better grasp of what works and what doesn’t). But the combination of the overkill factor and a basic mean-spiritedness finally sinks it for me.
It might be funny to see Woody Harrelson throw up after he has sex with his grotesque landlady (not that he is any prize), but it’s not funny repeated three or four times. Truth to tell, the film’s at its best in little throwaway moments (The Jeffersons on Ice?)—and whatever may be said against it, I don’t think anyone would dispute its status as the second-best comedy ever made about bowling. That’s an accolade to which few can aspire.