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The Big Lebowski

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All-Reviews.com 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 MrBrown
3½ stars out of 4

Leave it to the Coen brothers to use a man urinating on a rug as the catalyst for an entire film's events. No, an Oscar win and wide-spanning critical acclaim has not put a mainstreaming damper on the reckless imagination of bros Joel and Ethan, who have made an instant cult hit with their warped but hilarious comedy-thriller, The Big Lebowski.

Said urinating man is a thug out to collect a debt owed by Bunny Lebowski (Tara Reid), young trophy wife to Jeffrey Lebowski (David Huddleston), wheelchair-bound Pasadena millionaire. The problem is, he urinates on the rug of the _wrong_ Jeffrey Lebowski (Jeff Bridges), a.k.a. "the Dude," a lazy loser who wastes his days drinking and bowling with his buddies Walter Sobchak (John Goodman), a short-tempered Vietnam vet; and Donny (Steve Buscemi), a slow-witted ex-surfer. When the Dude attempts to receive compensation for his soiled rug from "the Big Lebowski," he sets off an outrageous chain of events that involves everything from kidnapping, ransom, double crosses, and pornography to a writer for the vintage TV western Branded, a gang of German nihilists, and their lethal pet marmot.

Needless to say, The Big Lebowski's story is intricate, out-there, and distinctly Coenesque; it is just about impossible to sum it up in a single sentence. While the Coens' unpredictable, ridiculously complex, and consistently funny plotline is one of the film's greatest virtues, the most pleasures lie with the cast of colorful characters. Standing first and foremost is the easily excitable Walter, prone to violent outbursts and suspicious of just about everyone. Goodman, in the film's standout performance, brings him to life with appropriate bluster without going too far; he's a blowhard, but he's a very loyal and helpful one, and as such we understand why anyone would want to be his friend. Making their marks on a smaller scale are Julianne Moore, who continues to shine as the perpetually robe-clad Maude, the Big Lebowski's sophisticated feminist artist daughter; John Turturro as flamboyant bowling adversary Jesus (_not_ pronounced the Spanish way) Quintana; Philip Seymour Hoffman as the Big Lebowski's geeky assistant; and Buscemi, who is endearing, if underused, as the mild-mannered link in the Dude-Walter-Donny trio.

But what about the Dude? Out of the odd array of characters in The Big Lebowski, he is by far the least interesting. Sure, he's a layabout; he pays grocery bills for 69 cents by check; he likes drinking White Russians and smoking a joint here and there; he always looks like he just got of bed; he loves Creedence Clearwater Revival; and he has vivid fantasies involving bowling, including one elaborate Busby Berkeley-style musical number complete with dancers wearing bowling pin headdresses. He's certainly not a conventional mystery "investigator" hero, and Bridges manages to make the slob likable, but he's a downright bore compared to, say, the vibrantly boorish Walter or even cameo characters such as a giddy art world contemporary of Maude's played by David Thewlis.

To call The Big Lebowski "strange" or "quirky" would be an understatement; at times it's flat-out weird. Its unconventionality (another understatement) is sure to leave many a moviegoer perplexed, but that's exactly what makes the film such a fresh and imaginative piece of entertainment.

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