DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

The Big Lebowski, Limited Edition Blu-ray (1998/2011)

Perhaps the No. 1 cult film of all time.

Published on August 14, 2011

The Big Lebowski, Limited Edition Blu-ray (1998/2011)

The Big Lebowski, Limited Edition Blu-ray (1998/2011)

Directors: Joel & Ethan Coen
Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Philip Semour Hoffman
Studio: Focus Features/Universal  61115274 [8/16/11]
Video: 1.85:1 for 16:9 1080p HD
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS Express 2.0, French DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: The Dud’s Life, The Dude Abides: The Big Lebowski Ten Years Later, The Dream Sequences of The Dude, Making of The Big Lebowski, The Lebowski Fest: An Achiever’s Story, Jeff Bridges Photo Book, Interactive Map, Photo gallery, BD Live, What’s My Line? Trivia, U-Control: Scene Companion, Mark It Due, The Music of The Big Lebowski; Pocket Blu app, Code for downloading a digital copy, more
Length: 1 hr. 59 mins.
Rating: ***** (language warning)

This is the favorite comedy of millions of people; some even have a regular family showing of it every Christmas and Thanksgiving. The Boston Globe called it the No. 1 cult film of all time. Lebowski Fests started in Louisville, KY and now occur regularly all over the world, with “achievers” (you have to see the film to figure that one out) attending in the costumes of various characters in the film – including even those only on screen a few seconds. They sometimes occur in bowling alleys and usually feature plenty of White Russian drinking.

I’d seen The Big Lebowski before, but under less-than-perfect condition: outdoors, projected on a wrinkled sheet with an entry-level video projector and poor sound.  This time around—with perfect Blu-ray quality and the fascinating extras—I practically became an achiever myself.  One online comment says you should not classify or rate the film until you’ve seen it at least three times; it takes multiple showings to get into it. There are not many movies that seem to get better each time you see it; this is one of them.

If you’ve never seen it: it’s a wild, hilarious, profanity-filled romp in which the convoluted plot is not really that important—the main interest is in the variety of over-the-top characters and the quirky dialog. It’s at heart a weird sort of buddy movie—with Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski, who is totally laid back and stoned most of the time, and his friend Walter, who is a militaristic, hot-tempered Vietnam vet with a one-man security business, who converted to Judaism when he was married to his now ex-wife. They and their cohort Donny love bowling, and the comedy also includes White Russians, a severed toe, some German nihilists, an avant-garde artist who drip-paints in the nude, a ferret (incorrectly called a marmot), a porno movie producer, nasty Malibu police, a handicapped director of some charities, his trophy wife, a private eye in a VW Beatle, and a rug belonging to The Dude which gets peeded on by baddies who have mistaken him for the other Lebowski—the charities-director—which starts off the whole mishigas. There’s a Raymond Chandler-type detective mystery behind the plot.

One of the wildest scenes pictures is a dream The Dude has after being knocked out by some baddies. It’s a parody of Busby Berkeley musicals, with the dancers wearing Carmen Miranda-style headdresses of bowling pins, and The Dude sailing between their lined-up legs to strike the bowling pins at the end of the line with his head. The Coens based The Dude character on a friend of theirs in LA—who gradeschool classmates began calling The Dude because his last name was Dowd—and he makes appearances at some of the Lebowski Fests.

The whole thing comes in a 28-page illustrating hard-bound book. Among the many bonus features in both the book and disc are examples of Jeff Bridges’ own WideLuxe panoramic photos of some of the shooting. The “Mark It, Dude” feature has an on-screen counter that adds up how many "F-bombs," “Dudes” and other repeated items occur during the film.  Some of the stars talking about the film in 2008 is interesting, and the Interactive Map takes you to many of the scenes around LA which take place in the film, and show you what they ordinarily look like, or inform you that the bowling alley in the film has now been torn down.

This may be the Coens’ masterpiece.

 – John Sunier




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