THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 58 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Pervasive Strong Language, Drug Content, Sexuality and Brief Violence

Lebowski poster

Directed by: Joel Coen

Written by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, David Huddleston, John Turturro, Tara Reid, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Elliot, Peter Stormare, David Thewlis

THE BIG LEBOWSKI is considered to be a cult classic. Plenty of my friends love the film, one of them even has a Jesus bowling shirt. The Coen brothers are a force to be reckoned with in the filmmaking world, so there should be no reason for this film not to live up to the hype. However, it seems that people are willing to overlook some pretty big flaws. It’s far from a bad movie, but it’s also not a comedic masterpiece either. It’s hysterically funny, but it’s far from perfect.

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The Dude is a slacker just enjoying life as it comes to him, despite no ambition. His real name is Jeff Lebowski and a case of mistaken identity puts him in a situation where a kidnapped woman’s life is in his hands. Thanks to his equally idiotic hot-headed best friend, Walter, a the money drop-off doesn’t go as planned and new complications present themselves to The Dude, Walter, and their fellow slow-witted bowler friend, Donny.

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As far as characters go, THE BIG LEBOWSKI is near perfection. Jeff Bridges inhabits the robe-wearing slacker known as The Dude with a manic energy. John Goodman is hilarious. Steve Buscemi isn’t really given much to say as Donny, which is his character’s running joke. Julianne Moore is the actually the worst part of the film, as her character seemed a bit bland and uninteresting. Peter Stormare and Philip Seymour Hoffman give memorable performances as two very different side characters. Finally, John Turturro steals every second of the few scenes he’s in as the weirdo rival bowler, Jesus.

Big Lebowski 3

There are plenty of laughs to be had throughout. The dialogue is clever and some of the jokes are set up way in advance. The dream sequences that The Dude has are impressive as far as the visuals are concerned. The story begins well enough and has a pretty cool set-up. There are even a couple of plot twists throughout, but some flaws detracted from my overall enjoyment of the film. There is some seriously sloppy storytelling at work here. A lot of plot elements are thrown in and then never revisited for a second. It’s not even like they existed for a single joke, it seemed like the Coens planned on coming back to some of these plot points. It never happens though and means that those scenes could have been left out of the final cut completely.

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The conclusion isn’t grand or climactic either. There is actually one fairly big event that was being built up and isn’t even shown (involving the best character in the film). The movie just sort of ends in the most anti-climactic way possible. Also, the running time feels stretched for a movie of this kind. It’s just under two hours and if it were cut by 20 or 30 minutes, with some changes to the plot, this could have easily wound up being one of the greatest comedies of all-time.

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I may be in the minority, but I felt THE BIG LEBOWSKI (though funny) was far from the comedic masterpiece that many people claim it is. There are plenty of hilarious bits and the performances are great (with the exception of Julianne Moore). It’s a rowdy fun time, but there are some big issues with the film as well. It’s good, but that’s about all it is.

Grade: B

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