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The Big Lebowski

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Big Lebowski

Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman
Director: Joel Cohen
Rated: R
RunTime: 117 Minutes
Release Date: March 1998
Genres: Comedy, Mystery, Suspense, Independent

*Also starring: Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, David Huddleston, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tara Reid, Philip Moon, Mark Pellegrino, Peter Stormare

Review by David Wilcock
3½ stars out of 4

After the success of Fargo (1996), the Coens are back again with this not quite madcap, yet not slow paced comedy/thriller. Jeff Bridges is Jeff Lebowski, a laid back bowler who prefers to be called The Dude. However, his name is shared with the local millionaire, and when thugs come round to The Dude believing him to be the millionaire Lebowski, and then urinate on his rug, The Dude goes round to the 'big' Lebowski to complain. From here-on, the Dude is drawn into a plot of kidnapping, deceit and violence. All presented, of course, in the typical Coen way.

A mixture between Raising Arizona (1987), Blood Simple (1981) and Fargo (1996), The Big Lebowski is fine entertainment. The cast is excellent, and features a wide range of slightly mad characters. Jeff Bridges is superb as the incredibly laid back The Dude. He takes on the character completely and believable. John Goodman is fun as Walter Sobchak, The Dude's slightly psychotic friend. A former Vietnam vet, the movie offers a good opportunity for Goodman to act crazy, and he takes the offer up. He's definitely the craziest character in this rather crazy movie. Julianne Moore, in a slightly underwritten part as Maude Lebowski, is good, although her role never really amounts to anything. Sadly, her character is not developed enough. Coen regular Steve Buscemi pops up as one of The Dude's bowling pals, and John Turturro (another Coen regular) makes a very short appearance as one of the funniest, most madcap, most 'on the edge' bowler walking the earth. Although his character promises much, it delivers little, and is not in the film long enough.

The plot is pretty straightforward, and is easy enough to follow. Despite the large amount of main and supporting characters, it's pretty easy to know what's going on. This is probably the Coen's most commercial film to date, although that doesn't mean it isn't filled with pure surreal touches. The Dude's dreams are great fun to watch, and Joel Coen's direction at the bowling alley gives the bowlers an almost angelic look. The script is funny, and although it recycles many gags over and over throughout the film, they always deliver a laugh when they're repeated. The plot can lag occasionally, but it pretty much zips along.

The film may be a bit too long for it's own good, but I couldn't care less because I was enjoying myself so much. And that's the great thing about The Big Lebowski. It's superb entertainment. Blessed with a great writing/directing team, and a superb cast, what could of been a pretty average kidnapping thriller turns out to be an enjoyable comedy. Once again, the Coen's have delivered a fine, if familiar, film. Just a small note to the Coen Brothers, though: let's move away from the kidnapping theme, eh? Nearly every Coen film has been centered around a kidnapping. This is a small gripe, however, and doesn't deter from the film at all. The Big Lebowski comes highly recommended.

Copyright 1998 David Wilcock

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