‘You’re on a gravy train with biscuit wheels.’
Roy Munson (Woody Harrelson), the 1979 Odor Eaters Ten-Pin Bowling Champion, falls in with his arch-rival, fright-wigged con artist Ernie McCracken (a gleefully camp Bill Murray), who teaches him how to make money hustling ten-pin.
But Ernie abandons Roy to a bunch of rednecks when the ruse is discovered, and they feed his arm into the ball-return, slashing off his bowling hand. McCracken, meanwhile, goes on to become a bowling hero.
Seventeen years later, Roy is on the skids and paying off the grotesque, sexually rapacious landlady of his verminous flophouse (Lin Shaye) with vomit-inducing bouts of sex.
And then he happens upon 40-year-old Ishmael Boorg (Randy Quaid), an innocent Amish farmhand and bowling natural.
Roy coaches and mentors Ishmael, and they take off for the National Championships in Reno for a shot at the £1 million prize money (competing against Roy’s old nemesis, Big Ernie McCracken), pausing only to pick up mini-skirted street-smart ‘personal companion’ Claudia (Vanessa Angel).
There’s something arresting in the sheer commitment the Farrelly brothers (fresh from their success with 1994’s Dumb and Dumber) bring to the naff gags, pratfalls and ritual humiliations these three go through, with Ishmael learning the temptations of the secular world along the way.
More beguiling still is their warts-and-all depiction of low life, which is so upfront that it ends up quite affectionate.
Owner Of Stiffy’s
Prudence Wright Holmes