Movie review: Kingpin (1996)

John Watson, Sports Editor

The movie Kingpin (1996) is a story-driven blast from the past that highlights a time when bowling was an emerging sport and large crowds would flock to see an exciting sporting event.



The film features Woody Harrelson as a struggling ex-professional bowler who tries to mentor a young soul into becoming a champion. The story follows their interesting journey from start to finish and includes many obstacles along the way. Bill Murray also makes an appearance as a rival bowler to Harrelson and the interactions between the two are quite memorable.


Spoiler-free review:

To watch this movie in 2020 is like watching Toy Story (1995) and then watching any animated film from 2019. A lot of the jokes don’t work with the current times and the comedy is just plain cringeworthy. However this film thrives on a rollercoaster plot and decent acting.

While i’ve personally never been a fan of Bill Murray’s mediocre acting, this film showed how he was on top of the world in the late 90’s. While his jokes are not made for 2020, I could see why he was cast in so many different roles back in that time. While his talents are mostly not necessary anymore, it’ll be interesting to see what roles he plays in the future.

As for Woody Harrelson’s character, he had a very intriguing character arc that included setbacks, failure, and triumph. I liked how they portrayed the role, and I would not have cast his character any other way. He took the scenes seriously and portrayed the role in a way only he could with also comedic relief along the way. Unlike Murray, Harrelson has been cast in demanding roles in the recent decades. He is not a one-trick-pony and I’m glad he could get past only doing comedic films.

While the story was very interesting, it was also very jumbled with countless different storylines and subplots. At points, things get hazy and you wonder where the different characters are at and when the climax will happen. Character development was a bright point in this movie as all the characters seemed to have a positive arc with each having their own flaws along the way. The characters all interacted with each other seamlessly and it seemed that they had one shared goal when creating this movie.

If you’re looking for a realistic bowling movie, you might want to just turn on a recent PBA event replay on youtube. As a fellow bowler myself, I found comedy in watching these actors throw balls down a lane. It may seem pointless as they are just actors in a cheesy movie about bowling, but i’m pretty sure Woody Harrelson has never thrown a strike in his entire life. As for Bill Murray, his technique was a little better and his bowling skills looked believable. One part I did like about the bowling scenes is that notable PBA members of the time like Mark Roth, Parker Bohn III and Randy Pederson made appearances at one point in the movie. As they have all recently been inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame, it was nice to see them make cameos.



While some of the jokes in this movie do not live up to the current times, and a crazy plot and storyline make for a heck of a journey, this movie was pretty decent. Would I watch it again? Probably not.

Spinnaker sail rating 2/5