Pin Gods

(Documentary 16mm color)

Toronto Film Fest l996–An intermittently amusing look at the world of professional bowling is offered in Larry Locke's documentary, “Pin Gods,” which interweaves the stories of three ambitious, if also bizarre men.

Technically, the picture is raw, but the novelty of its concerns, which are depicted with a healthy dosage of bitter-sweet humor, may warrant limited theatrical distribution, though ultimately docu is better suited for the festival circuit.

Debutant filmmaker Locke and his producer Jan Grznar, both graduates of Columbia University's Film School, can't decide whether their docu should follow the wildly satirical path of “Roger and Me” or be more in the probing vein of “Hoop Dreams.” End result is an offbeat film that tries too hard to be hip and quirky, but is only mildly witty and sharp in its view of the bowling milieu–and the American Dream of fame and success.

The youngest rookie is Tony Rosamilia, 21, from Lodgewood, New Jersey, who all his life has been dreaming of becoming a bowler–despite the fact that his friends insist it's a “sissy” sports. Anton “Sonny” Pavelchak, from New York's Valley Cottage, is slightly older, 26, but just as determined to make it big.

The most talented and cocky of the three is Bob Vespi, 25, from Ft. Lauderdale. Off-center trio is contrasted with the older pro, Walter Ray Williams, the reigning bowler of the year.

There's no real suspense here, because docu plants enough facts to suggest its protagonists won't succeed. A further problem is that the bowlers' families and friends are far more colorful and interesting than the protags are. This is especially the case of Anton's father, whose running commentary about his son's copout and eventual failure is the funniest thing in the film.

“Pin Gods” succeeds at conveying an authentic feel for the hard and expensive life on the road, as 200 bowlers engage in a coast-to-coast winter marathon through Middle America's sleazy motel, cheap diners and various bowling lanes. However, it doesn't help matters that the nature of bowling is inherently undramatic, or as one commentator says: “It's not you against them, it's you against the pins.”


An Arc Pictures production. Produced by Jan Grznar. Executive produced, conceived, and directed by Larry Locke. Camera (16mm color), Scott Pauly; editor, Ann Moore; music, Mark Maxwell; sound, Anthony “Chic” Ciccolini.

Running time: 78 min.