In the mid 90's two sets of brotherly filmmakers made huge breakthroughs into Hollywood with surprise hits that catapulted each of their careers respectively - The Farrelly Brothers with Dumb and Dumber in 1994 and the Coen Brothers with Fargo in 1996. Both writer/director tandems had huge expectations with their follow up films and both took a fairly unorthodox subject matter for their comedic encores - bowling. Who would you rather share a lane with, the Dude or Munson? Let the voting begin!
First and foremost we have our two leads, Woody Harrelson as Roy Munson and Jeff Bridges as Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski. Now when it comes to raw acting talent, I think we can all agree Bridges is in another class than Harrelson but I'd be lying to you if I said I thought of any other character than Roy Munson when I hear the name Woody Harrelson. He's incredible as the lovable sleeze-ball trying to turn a new leaf and really carries the film in a lot of ways. I know it sounds like sacrilege but Munson is the dude for me.
As for the role of the sidekick, John Goodman steals every scene he's in. Randy Quaid hams it up to nearly unwatchable levels at times so this one's a no brainer for me.
And you can't mention the cast of Kingpin without talking about Bill Murray. His role as the villain is amongst his finest comedic work in a staggering career. He's so incredibly unlikable that it just kills you to see him keep succeeding even in the film's unlikely ending.
But Lebowski's got such a dynamic ensemble cast with hilarious bits from Buscemi and Turturro especially, while outside of Chris Elliot and Lin Shaye, Kingpin is littered with repeat Farrelly regulars that don't really deserve the roles these guys continue to give them.
The one thing that really let me down watching The Big Lebowski for the first time was the story. It just never really feels like it peaks and when it's finally all said and done, despite creating some memorable characters, I never feel like it's entirely worth the hype surrounding it. I'm a big Coen Brothers fan but Lebowski is amongst my least favorite films from them and the primary reason is it seems to lack the dynamic writing of any number of their superior efforts. And even though Kingpin isn't perfect, it's certainly unpredictable and engaging throughout.
As much as I'd like to try and compose a fair and unbiased evaluation of why the Coen Brothers are far superior directors than the Farrelly Brothers, the emotional damage suffered during Shallow Hal, Stuck on You, Hall Pass, and the Heartbreak Kid will not allow me to even consider the comparison. Coen's win.
+ 1 Lebowski
I know Lebowski isn't your typical comedy but when it comes to laughs, Kingpin's head and shoulders above the competition.
And though it's not as widely celebrated as Dumb and Dumber (well, in pretty much every respect) Kingpin's got a great soundtrack. Goldfinger, ELO, English Beat and a Blues Traveler appearance over the end credits? And the original score is pretty solid too.
Staying power is a big factor with me for comedies and with Lebowski, it doesn't really leave any lasting impression. There are moments here and there but nothing as memorable as Kingpin's endearing tale of Roy Munson.