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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 John Beachem
3½ stars out of 4

Imagine if someone came into your house demanding money, and when you didn't come up with it right away, they urinated all over your rug. Not just any rug either, it was the rug that really tied the room together. What would you do? While this may not sound like anything which even resembles a setup for a film, it's exactly how "The Big Lebowski" starts. Like the television show, "Seinfeld", "The Big Lebowski" is basically a movie about nothing. It doesn't have much of a plot, it's about characters who wander aimlessly through pointless lives, and this big, shambling movie borders on being a comic masterpiece.

Jeff Lebowski (Jeff Bridges), better known as "The Dude", has just had his rug defiled by a couple of thugs. You see, these thugs mistook The Dude for another Lebowski (David Huddleston), who just happens to be a millionaire. It would seem that The Big Lebowski's trophy wife, Bunny (Tara Reid), owes money all over town. So, after consulting his best friend, a shell shocked Vietnam vet named Walter (the hysterical John Goodman), The Dude decides to get a replacement rug from The Big Lebowski. This soon leads to the discovery that Bunny has been kidnapped, and The Dude is hired by Lebowski to deliver the money for her safe return. What follows is a hilarious series of mistakes and misunderstandings, as the dude finds his peaceful, laidback, alcohol filled life completely rearranged. If this so called plot sounds a tad confused, that's because it is. Even the film's narrator (Sam Elliot) confesses to having lost his train of thought at one point.

Let me say that this isn't an easy film to review. There isn't much of a plot for me to discuss, and there's nothing even remotely serious about what plot there is. Perhaps the best way to proceed would be to discuss each of the multitude of colorful characters at work here. To start with, we have The Dude himself, played by the perfectly cast Jeff Bridges ("Arlington Road", "Starman"). The dude is a comical looking hippie, stuck in the '90s when he belongs in the '60s. This shaggy looking pacifist has only two important things in his life: drinking and bowling. Next up, we have Walter Sobchak, as depicted by the brilliant, hilarious, and always underrated John Goodman ("Bringing out the Dead", "Fallen"). Walter is a Vietnam veteran who is utterly convinced that everything in life relates in some way to the Vietnam war; whether it be bowling, kidnapping, or peeing on someone's rug.

While The Dude and Walter are the focal points of the film, they are surrounded by hilarious characters. Maude Lebowski (Julianne Moore) is the daughter of The Big Lebowski, and she paints in the nude while hanging from the ceiling on a cable. Donny (Steve Buscemi) is a brain dead surfer who hangs out with Walter and The Dude. Of course, we can only assume he's brain dead since Walter never allows him to complete a sentence. Jesus, the bowler (John Turturro), is a paedopheliac who dances to salsa music whenever he makes a strike, and who we see going from door to door telling people that he's a paedopheliac in accordance with the law; but it's still something you can't picture someone really doing. Brandt (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is The Big Lebowski's butler, who laughes inanely at anything anyone says and is the only person The Dude meets up with who actually calls him The Dude (he hates being called Lebowski). There are dozens more, but I don't have room to list them all in this review.

The film's main strength is in its bizzare characters and equally unusual situations. For example, there is a scene in which The Dude drinks a drugged White Russian (his favorite drink) and goes through a hysterical dream sequence called "Gutter Balls". The movie's only weakness is that it's difficult to keep a film going for more than two hours when there is no plot to speak of. As a result of this, the film does falter at times, particularaly towards the end where things get a bit too sentimental. All that aside, "The Big Lebowski" is a brilliant, crazy comedy which could only have come from the Cohen brothers. The film does run a bit too long at minutes, but it manages to keep the laughs coming for nearly the entire length. While the rather unusual humor might not be for everyone, I strongly recommend it to those of you who like off the wall stories about off the wall characters, and I give it a well earned four and a half out of five stars.

Copyright 1998 John Beachem

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