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Film / Kingpin

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Kingpin is a 1996 Slapstick comedy made by the Farrelly Brothers.

It stars Woody Harrelson as Roy Munson, a former top bowler who lost his hand after an attempt to hustle some other bowlers went awry. In the present, Roy leads a pathetic life, forced to have sex with his repulsive landlady just to stay in his lousy apartment. When he discovers Ishmael (Randy Quaid), an Amish bowling prodigy, Roy sees his chance at getting out of the gutter. He offers to take Ishmael to the bowling championship in Reno, offering Ishmael the prize money to save his family's farm. Along the way, they pick up Claudia (Vanessa Angel), an attractive lady with her own goals.

Kingpin provides examples of the following tropes:

  • The Ace: Roy in his prime during the 70's as well as his old rival, Ernie McCracken (Bill Murray)... at first. He later proves himself to be a Broken Ace.
  • Actor Allusion: A couple for Woody Harrelson.
    • Roy is offered a million dollars by a playboy gambler for a night with his partner, à la Indecent Proposal.
    • Woody from Cheers was once stated to have been a talented bowler back in Indiana, although he gave up the sport after being involved in a bowling-related incident.
  • The Alcoholic: Roy, big time. Following his Game-Breaking Injury, he turns to booze so hard that his kitchen cabinets are stocked with nothing except hard liquor.
  • Artificial Limbs: Roy has a prosthetic rubber hand which he ends up bowling with in the big tournament. It ends up netting him a $500,000 endorsement deal with Trojan Condoms.
  • Artistic License Sports: Standing on the approach when another bowler is preparing to bowl in the neighboring lane is bad etiquette, to say the least. Most bowlers would refuse to throw until Claudia had moved. But given that she is Ms. Fanservice, the men don't complain as much as they should.
  • Breast Attack: Roy does this after Claudia hits him between the legs.
  • The Cameo: Roger Clemens and John Popper (who turns up with his band Blues Traveler during the Dance Party Ending). In addition, professional bowlers Parker Bohn III, Randy Pedersen and Mark Roth appear as opponents that Roy defeats on his way to the final match in Reno against McCracken.
  • The Casanova: Ernie McCracken again, as he sponsors many fatherless boys in order to get with their single mothers, and is questioned by a reporter about his purported illegitimate child.
  • Dance Party Ending: With Blues Traveler performing "But Anyway" dressed as Amish people.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: This becomes the group's main strategy after Claudia joins them. They meet one farmer who is immune to her charms, but a winsome sheep does the trick.
  • Domestic Abuser: Despite referring to her as "dear" Stanley is shown to be physically abusive to Claudia, at which point she decides to flee with Roy and Ishmael.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Roy, big time. He even loses the tournament at the end ... but he still ends up with Claudia, gets to share the money she stole from Stanley (won as a result of betting against him, no less), has the satisfaction of knowing that Stanley thinks Ernie stole that money, and is offered $500,000 in an endorsement deal for Trojan Condoms.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Or, as Roy puts it...
    Roy: Listen, lady, I've done a lot of creepy things in my life. I'm not gonna lower myself into having a fistfight with a girl.
  • Farm Boy: Ishmael comes from an Amish community.
  • Feet-First Introduction: Roy's introduction in the 1979 sequence begins with a closeup of his bowling shoes as he walks down the alley to celebrate his victory in the State Amateur Championship.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: Shortly after winning his first pro tournament, Roy loses his hand when the guys he and Ernie hustled beat him up and force said hand into the ball return machine.
  • Groin Attack: Claudia does this to Roy.
    Roy: You must have really wide feet. You got both of them!
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    Claudia: Look, Mr. Munson, you're not exactly the smartest guy I ever ran across.
    Roy: Oh yeah? And who are you, Alfred Einstein?
  • Ignore the Fanservice: Claudia's method of distracting Ishmael's opponents fails when he bowls against some farmers. It takes a sheep to grab their attention instead.
  • Jerkass: Ernie McCracken to an outrageous degree, and Roy to a lesser extent. McCraken takes pretty much every opportunity to rub his superior skill in people's faces. After losing to Roy in the prologue, he sabotages the guy's car and then takes advantage of his naivety to get him into hustling which directly results in Roy's Game-Breaking Injury, and more.
  • Jerkass Hero: Roy certainly has his moments, most egregiously when he beats up Ishmael and rubs Tabasco sauce in his eyes in order to "save" him from a redneck whose girlfriend Ishmael had danced with in a bar, before having a round of drinks with said redneck and his friends.
  • Karma Houdini: Zig-zagged. It was McCracken's idea to hustle the bowler who cut off Roy's hand. He fled before Roy was confronted, and went on to become an unbeatable (yet incredibly smug and obnoxious) pro bowler, even winning the tournament in the climax. However, Claudia's abusive boyfriend Stanley arrives soon after, accusing Roy of stealing his gambling winnings. Roy pins the blame on McCracken, whom Stanley vows to find and kill.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: Claudia shows up as Roy is trying to ditch her, which causes him to change the last word of the lie he is telling Ishmael.
    Roy: Yeah a big military train derailed and this whole area's in danger of being contaminated by a huge cloud of...shit!
  • Memetic Mutation: In-Universe; Roy's last name Munson has unflatteringly become slang for getting screwed over in the worst way.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Stanley hits Claudia after she mocks his bowling skills during his bet with Roy. Because of this, she helps Roy and Ishmael escape Stanley's wrath after he learns Roy was gambling using mostly Monopoly money. She even tells them as they escape that she will not stand for being hit.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Claudia, which she uses extensively to help with hustling bowling games. As she herself says: "I'm every guy's type."
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: Ismael is perhaps the only straight man in the entire film who is immune to Claudia's charms.
    Ishmael: (snickering) I didn't want to be the one to tell him, but with those narrow hips, that girl couldn't have more than 6 or 7 children!
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: McCracken refuses to be addressed by anything but "Ernie" or "Big Ern".
  • Person as Verb: To be "Munsoned" develops as an in-universe slang to describe a situation in which someone (anyone) failed to live up to their potential, got screwed over and is in deep shit as a result. Even the Amish are aware of (and use) it. When Roy introduces himself to the administrators at the bowling tournament, they snigger upon hearing his surname.
  • Riches to Rags: Thanks to Ernie's actions, Roy goes from a State Amateur Bowling Champion with a promising professional future to a crippled, alcoholic bowling supplies salesman trying to get by, who sometimes has to have sex with his disgusting landlady in order to make up for his inability to pay the rent.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Roy and Claudia are at each other's throats throughout the film, even engaging in a fistfight. Guess what happens during the ending.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: A love song starts playing while Roy and Claudia have a no-holds-barred smackdown.
  • Use Your Head: Claudia does this to great effect against Roy in their fistfight.
  • Vehicular Sabotage: To get back at Roy for winning against him, McCraken sabotages his car by putting sugar in his gas tank, blowing the engine and causing $2,000 in damages.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Despite what the announcers at the final tournament say, Ernie McCracken is not a nice guy.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Roy is this at first, until Claudia hits him a couple of times.