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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Satire > The Big Lebowski - Collector's Edition

The Big Lebowski (Widescreen Collector's Edition)

 

Picture: B   Sound: B   Extras: C   Film: B+

 

 

It's pretty much impossible not to love The Dude, the unforgettable misfit played by Jeff Bridges in the Coen Brothers' The Big Lebowski.  When we first meet The Dude, he's in a supermarket wearing a bathrobe and slippers, and writes a 69-cent check for a carton of milk.And knowing The Dude, donít be surprised if that check bounced.  A pot-smoking leftover from the 1960s, his real name if Jeffrey Lebowski, but he insists upon everybody calling him The Dude.  Scruffy and virtually unemployable, all The Dude pretty much does is smoke weed, drink White Russians and bowl with his two buddies, a powder keg of a Vietnam veteran named Walter (John Goodman) and meek little guy named Donny (Steve Buscemi), who's berated by Walter every time he opens his mouth.

 

Set in late 1990 and early 1991 (around the time of the Persian Gulf War), The Big Lebowski (1998) is a comical detective story with The Dude being drawn into a complicated kidnapping plot after he's mistaken for another Los Angeles-area resident named Jeffrey Lebowski, who's a millionaire philanthropist (David Huddleston).  When some thugs crash into The Dude's humble apartment thinking he's the rich Lebowski, and urinate on his rug (hey it hung the room together), The Dude travels to the wealthy Lebowski's mansion to be re-compensated.  After initially being insulted and called a bum by the rich Lebowski, The Dude gets hired by the wheelchair-bound millionaire to deliver the ransom money for his young trophy wife (Tara Reid), who's been kidnapped.But everything backfires on our hero, and before long heíll be forced to become the hippie answer to Sam Spade.

 

The plot, however, is merely an excuse to watch the world's most unlikely sleuth move from one disaster to another.  The Dude's biggest mistake is involving Walter, who's as volatile as The Dude is laid back.  Constantly overreacting, and making the wrong assumptions, Walter always ends up ruining everything. His blunders and misconceptions are bad enough even to get the usually mellow Dude to lose his cool.

 

The Dude and Walter are a hilarious odd couple, but there's something that's also oddly endearing about them.  These are two polar opposites obviously from different backgrounds and different political persuasions.Walter was fighting in Vietnam while The Dude was back home protesting the war.  Walter is a belligerent gun nut who has never gotten over Vietnam while The Dude is a peace-loving pacifist who's still stuck in the '60s counterculture.  They became unlikely buddies, but The Dude and Walter are both men who've been relegated to the fringe of society for their refusal to be anything other than who they really are. 

 

As written and directed by The Coen's, The Big Lebowski is a true original with a terrific supporting cast that includes Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ben Gazzara and Coen regulars John Turturro and Jon Polito.  And Sam Elliott serves as narrator and appears in a couple scenes as a slow-spoken Cowboy who can appreciate The Dude's take-it-easy style.  The film also has a great soundtrack of songs from The Dude's heyday, and a couple of amusing musical numbers that occur during The Dude's dreams.

 

The Big Lebowski is one of the best comedies of the 1990s, but the new Collector's Edition from Focus Features is a disappointment.  The anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer accompanied with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound is adequate, but in terms of special features, this Collector's Edition isn't much different from Polygram's earlier DVD release of the film.  This new Collector's Editions boasts a mock "exclusive introduction" that's silly without being funny, and still photos taken on the set by photography buff Bridges.  The photos from Bridges' personal collection are a nice touch, but the 30-minute "making-of" is the same "making-of" from the previous DVD with the same interviews recorded back in 1998.  The old Polygram DVD also had a teaser trailer that's not included in the new edition.Another new edition dubbed The Achieverís Edition adds 4 character coasters, 8 photo cards and even a collectible bowling towel.For either Collector's Edition, where's the audio commentary and/or deleted scenes?

 

 

-†† Chuck O'Leary


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