- Rated R
- Buy the BD
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
t's hard to believe that it's been ten years since “The Big Lebowski” first rolled into theaters, but it still stands as one of the strangest movies of its generation. It's also one of the most oddly enjoyable, and although the film may not be the Coen brothers’ greatest achievement, it's definitely their most original. A crime thriller wrapped up in the skin of a stoner comedy, “The Big Lebowski” may have a reputation for being the late night movie of choice for burnouts, but it’s more than your average stoner film.
Narrated by Sam Elliot and starring an ensemble cast of some of the best character actors in the business, “The Big Lebowski” tells the story of two very different Jeffrey Lebowskis, one of whom is described as "the laziest in all of Los Angeles County" – a genial deadbeat who insists on being called The Dude (Jeff Bridges). Introduced in a supermarket sampling milk from the carton, The Dude is a slacker who spends his days smoking weed and drinking White Russians, and his nights bowling with pals Walter (John Goodman) and Donny (Steve Buscemi). To say he leads a simple life would be an overstatement.
One night after hanging out with the guys, The Dude is visited by a pair of thugs (one of whom urinates on his cherished rug) threatening to do further damage if he doesn’t take care of his wife’s mounting debt. The Dude calmly explains that he has no such lady friend, and upon looking around his less-than-impressive apartment, the thugs agree they have the wrong man. The Jeffrey Lebowski (David Huddleston) they’re looking for is a millionaire who lives in Pasadena with his sex-obsessed trophy wife, Bunny (Tara Reid). When Bunny is suddenly kidnapped, the other Lebowski calls on The Dude to act as an intermediary to the situation, leaving him to deal with a suitcase full of ransom money and a gang of nihilistic German punks.
The Coens have a gift for creating and casting some of the most original characters in cinema, and "The Big Lebowski" is no exception. John Turturro, for example, is an absolute riot as Jesus Quintana. A flamboyant, rival bowler who also happens to be a registered sex offender, Jesus has no real significance to the story, but he lends a certain quirkiness to an already bizarre world. John Goodman also turns in a great performance as The Dude's grizzled best friend, but it's Jeff Bridges who ultimately makes the film what is. In one of the most memorable roles of his career, the veteran actor embodies The Dude so flawlessly that you'll never look at him the same way again. Bridges is The Dude, and although it may seem like he’s playing any ordinary stoner, the way in which he approaches the character is pure genius.
"The Big Lebowski" is like the cinematic equivalent of an idiot savant, because despite a seemingly incoherent plot filled with dumb characters and even dumber decisions, it's actually far more clever than it lets on. The Busby Berkeley-inspired dream sequences will probably catch you off-guard the first time around, but then again, so will just about everything else, from Julianne Moore zip-lining naked through a mansion to David Thewlis as an artist friend with a habit of laughing uncontrollably. But as as tempting as it is to dismiss “The Big Lebowski” for these offbeat moments, it would be foolish to do so. This is one of those films that practically demands repeat viewings, because if you don’t know what to expect, you won’t find the humor in any of it. And that's what gives it such incredible cult appeal.
Limited Edition Blu-ray Review:
“The Big Lebowski” has had its share of home video releases over the years, but Universal’s new Blu-ray is the best one yet. All of the bonus material from the previous releases (namely, the 10th anniversary DVD) has been included here, including a lengthy interview with the Coens, a pair of retrospective featurettes (“The Dude’s Life” and “The Dude Abides”), a brief look at the making of the infamous dream sequence (“Flying Carpets & Bowling Pin Dreams”), and a sneak peek at Eddie Chung’s 2008 documentary about Lebowski Fest. There are also a few new extras as well, like the “Worthy Adversaries” trivia game, where you complete lines from the movie while it’s playing; a picture-in-picture video commentary with cast and crew interviews and behind-the-scenes footage; and a feature called “Mark It, Dude” that tracks all the profanities and Dude-isms that appear throughout the film.