“Kingpin” – Blu-ray Review by Pete Macabre

Blu-ray Review – Kingpin

Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment

Street Date: October 14th 2014

Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 2.34:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

Runtime:  Theatrical Cut- 113 Minutes

                     Extended R Cut- 117 Minutes

Kingpin (Paramount Home Entertainment)

Kingpin (Paramount Home Entertainment)

The Film:

“Son, you put that in a bottle, you got something sweeter than Yoo-hoo.”

Sometimes we remember movies not by a particular moment or scene from the film, but from the reaction of a loved one who we watched it with. My mother has the all-time greatest laugh (of course I’m a little biased). It’s one of those little things, like her cooking, and my Dad’s morning coffee brewing that say’s “home” to me in every way possible. The funny thing is, the thing I remember most about Kingpin is my mother’s genuine, crying from laughing so hard reaction to Bill Murray’s hairpiece at the end of the film. Growing progressively worse throughout the bowling showdown finale, with the hairpiece hanging off his head entirely, I can still see my Mother in tears from laughing so hard. It’s a fond memory I hold for a film that is still just as hilarious as it was nearly twenty years ago.

Coming fresh off of Dumb and Dumber, the Farrelly brothers were still struggling with getting their next film financed, as the aforementioned film was seen as more of a “Jim Carrey vehicle” than something of their unique creation. After many months of desperately trying to find studio backing and star power, the brothers landed their next opportunity in Kingpin.

In the film, Woody Harrelson plays Roy Munson, a naïve up and comer in the bowling world who wins the 1979 Iowa State Bowling Championship and decides to leave home to go on the Professional Bowler’s Tour. Once on the road, he defeats Ernie “Big Ern” McCracken (Bill Murray), who subsequently talks him into conning some locals to earn some extra money. The deal goes bad, with Roy losing a hand and Big Ern leaving him high and dry.

Fast forward to 1996 and Roy is a hook-handed, alcoholic, mess of a man living in a seedy apartment and selling bowling supplies to local alleys. When he comes across Ishmael (Randy Quaid), an Amish bowling prodigy, he makes it his personal mission to convince Ishmael to compete in a 1,000,000 dollar tournament. Once on the road, Roy introduces Ishmael to the same con game that landed him in trouble in the first place, and as expected, things go badly. They escape the wrath of thethe help of the beautiful Claudia (Vanessa Angel), and through some trial and tribulation, make their way to Reno for the million dollar tournament where Roy encounters Big Ernie McCracken once again.

The plot outline may sound fairly simplified for those who have seen it, but I don’t want to spoil any of the jokes, gross-out gags, and hilariousness that ensues. The Farrelly brothers were still developing their “style” at this point in their career, and they take plenty of chances here, and the results still feel fresh, dirty, and just plain fun. I wouldn’t necessarily call it one of the best comedies of the era, but it’s more than watchable and still features plenty of laugh out loud moments. Revisiting this brand new Blu-Ray edition brought back some fun memories of this underrated comedy.

Video Quality:

This High Definition presentation from Paramount Home Entertainment looks fairly solid for what it’s worth, with authentic natural film grain and a color grading that seems spot-on for the time period and directorial intention. There are some occasional soft spots throughout, and fine object detail isn’t as consistently crystal clear compared to some of Paramount’s other catalog transfers, but it still looks good overall. The good news is that there are no anomalies to speak of and certainly no digital scrubbing or manipulation at work here.

Audio Quality:

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is rather mediocre here, delivering dialogue and background sound design fairly well but wavering in its power to produce a balanced and dynamic score consistently, and seemingly struggling during the film’s bowling competition finale. The whole audio presentation just feels a bit soft and weak comparatively.

Special Features:

Paramount Home Entertainment has included a few select bonus features for this Blu-Ray release of Kingpin, most notably a brand new featurette with the Farrelly Brothers. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

  • Audio Commentary- Available only on the extended “R” rated cut of the film, Directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly sit down to discuss the film in pretty significant detail. They’re funny guys, explaining some casting choices, financing, filming memories, and the lack of a box office response upon its release. Thankfully the film really shined on home video, claiming the #1 spot for several months and securing their next project, the blockbuster comedy There’s Something About Mary.
  • Kingpins: Extra Frames with The Farrelly Brothers– This nearly 20 minute featurette is newly produced for this Blu-Ray edition, and features the Farrelly Brothers reminiscing about their film, which at the time was their Directorial follow-up to Dumb & Dumber (1994). In between a bowling match between the brothers, we get to hear about some fun stories: from nearly casting Chris Farley in the Ishmael role to vintage footage of Woody Harrelson getting a bit emotional about his time working on the film (!), there’s plenty to love about this piece. Bill Murray’s improvisations are discussed, which of course made for some of the funniest lines in the film. All said, this is great stuff, and fans of the film will not be disappointed in this new featurette.
  • Theatrical Trailer– Presented in High Definition, this theatrical trailer for the film gives viewers a fairly good idea of what they’re in for, complete with a generic 90’s voice over. There’s plenty of deleted and extended scenes in the trailer that are not in the actual film, but are presented in the “R” rated version.

The Packaging:

As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Paramount Home Entertainment features a very nice slipcover with a glittery frame that includes an embossed title and embossed bowling balls. On the reverse of the packing you’ll find a short plot synopsis, a list of special features, and technical specifications for the discs. On the inside of the packaging you’ll find a sole Blu-Ray disc in eco-friendly packaging.

Kingpin (reverse)

Kingpin (reverse)

Kingpin (interior)

Kingpin (interior)









Final Report:

I have fond memories of watching Kingpin in my early teen years, and I’ll never forget my Mother’s laughter at Bill Murray’s hairpiece during the bowling competition finale. Revisiting the film many years later on this brand new Blu-Ray edition from Paramount was a joy, and it still absolutely holds up. It’s a typical Farrelly Brothers comedy, with plenty of dirty gags and even a little heart, and Bill Murray’s turn as “Big Ern” McCracken is unforgettable. The Blu-Ray edition features a very nice High Definition presentation that retains the authenticity of a film print, but features a disappointing audio track. Special features are somewhat light, but the fun commentary and brand new featurette make up for it. Recommended.

Pete Macabre

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