Big Ern McCracken

Big Ern McCracken - Bill Murray - Kingpin illustration

Kingpin is an incredibly underrated movie. It's much better than it needs to be. It's much better than it has any right to be. It is possibly the greatest film about a washed-up one-handed bowler mentoring an Amish ten-pin prodigy there has ever been. And it's at least the second best film ever made about bowling in general.

It's a film about second chances, friendship, loyalty and what it means to take control of your own destiny. Which sounds like the kind of film your Nan would watch on a Thursday afternoon except that it also has a scene where Woody Harrelson accidentally gives a bull a handjob and then gets a 'milk' moustache from drinking the fruits of his labour.

In addition to these charms it has Big Ern McCracken, possibly the quintessential Bill Murray performance. You see, Bill almost always plays a sociopath to some degree or another. But in Kingpin we witness what happens when Peter Venkman doesn't have cuddly childman Ray Stantz to keep him in check; we see John Winger without Russel Ziskey. We see the pure ice-cold darkness at the heart of the Murray-man. A preening cocksure rooster completely unconcerned with the happiness and well-being of others, a self-sure existential nightmare lacking all empathy. So why is Big Ern so charming? He doesn't give a shit about us, why do we love him?

It's the same reason that a MILLION PEOPLE turned out to celebrate Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee in 2012 ( You know, in 1938 a chimney-sweep named Charlie Shortflake won a competition to spend the day at Buckingham Palace to celebrate Liz's twelfth birthday. The competition was part of a massive publicity drive Stork Margarine ran in the thirties to get people to eat their deadly product ( Charlie collected more Stork wrappers than anyone else by living off the fatty cakes of artery-congestant exclusively for seven months - such was his fascination with young Liz.

When Charlie arrived at the palace, dressed (I imagine) in his Sunday best and clutching his cap nervously in his hands, he expected to bask humbly in the radiance of his future monarch. Instead, he was stripped naked on the palace grounds and tied up beneath a six inch sheet of glass that magnified the unseasonably bright April sunshine. He was left there until the end of the day when Elizabeth was encouraged to rub his badly sunburned back with a mixture of salt, sand and ground glass while he fed her gooseberry jelly and ice-cream to celebrate her birthday (look it up!).

After his ordeal, Charlie was asked to comment on his experiences in the palace by The Times. Through chapped and bleeding lips, his answer?

"Such grace. Such dignity. She is as an Angel sent from the Heavens."

Which just goes to show we love people who hate us. It's the same reason we voted David Cameron into power despite the fact that he blinded Britain's oldest serving ice-cream man by blowing a handful of lye into his eyes onstage at The Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards in 2009. And it's the same reason Big Ern McCracken is so much fun to watch.

So, in summary, Kingpin is a very good movie. And you should watch it immediately. If you haven't seen it - you're in for a treat. If you saw it years ago and thought it was okay but can't understand what all the fuss is about - it deserves a revisit. If you have seen it recently, then you've been smiling and nodding your head in agreement with everything I've said in this blog entry.

(By-the-way, anyone claiming that I'm obsessed with Bill Murray - this is only the second Bill Murray blog entry since the start of The Sunday Dog Parade. That's only two in three whole months! And I would say that AT MOST there'll only be another three before the end of the year. Clearly, anyone capable of that level of self-control is not "obsessed" with Bill Murray. I just really like him is all. Why? Did he ask about me?)

1 comment:

  1. I worry about you, Gajda. Have you been going out in the sun without a hat?