The Big Lebowski

Rated: R
Runtime: 1 Hour and 56 Minutes

Reviewer: Dale
Grade: A+

Now this is the sort of Coen Brothers movie that made me fall in love with them in the first place. If you want your movies to be straightforward efforts whose conclusions you can see coming a mile away, then you want to shy away from this film. But if you crave the unpredictable, the wild, the downright insane, then this film is going to be your cup of tea.

It's a story about the Dude, or Jeff Lebowski, as his family named him. The Dude, played to perfection(yes, perfection, there is not a sour note anywhere in his performance) by Jeff Bridges, is a stoner. He is also one of the laziest men on Earth. The Narrator tells us so right at the beginning of the movie, but it would not take us long to figure this out, even if he didn't. I think it is a perfect introduction to this character that the first time we see him, he is drinking a carton of milk without paying for it, then writing a check for sixty-nine cents.

Anyway, The Dude comes home from shopping to find two men waiting for him. The men dunk his head in the toilet and then piss upon his rug. They then discover that he is not the man they wanted and leave him alone to seek out the other Jeff Lebowski, a millionaire with a young trophy wife who owes money to pornographers.

The Dude is nonplussed, however. You see, the rug that was urinated upon really "tied the room together" and now he is without it. At the urging of his friend Walter (a man who was in Vietnam and refuses to let anyone forget it) he confronts the millionaire Lebowski and asks to be compensated for his soiled rug.

This all leads him to be involved in a complex plot of deceit, kidnapping, pornography and money that the Dude is not quite equipped to handle. One of the many delights in this film is the fact that The Dude is involved in a scheme that a Humphrey Bogart character would have been aces at solving but which he is mentally ill-suited for. He basically stumbles upon important information, finding the culprits more by accident than through any kind of keen observational know-how.

The plot, which may seem pretty meandering on first glance, is actually pretty clever. It goes forward the whole way and is pretty straightforward. Yet, since we see it through the Dude's dazed and easily-distracted eyes, the film takes a roundabout way with things. If you're like me, you will find this approach refreshing. The scheme does not lay itself out plainly for you, but neither does Life most of the time.

Another great source of glee: the characters. Jeff Bridges gives a great, multi-layered yet deceptively lazy performance as the main character and John Goodman is wonderful as the always-agitated Walter. The other performers are equally good, but if I started naming each of them, this review would run on even longer than it already will, so I will allow you the joy of discovering them for yourself.

The dialogue is perfectly-suited for each of these men, revealing little touches and subtle ways of recycling the dialogue which came before. I loved the way the Dude uses about every phrase he hears for himself at a later moment. Very realistic. I loved the ways Walter related everything, in its own way, to his experience in Vietnam. Coen Brothers dialogue is always very lyrical. It abides by its own unique rhythms and spins. I love it every time I hear it. It is so far removed from the speech of any other film.

I also love their bizarre little visual flourishes. Jeff's drug (crutch) of choice provides them with many opportunities to showcase their visual polish and stage several dream sequences and musical numbers that are truly memorable.

I love this movie. I only liked it at first, but every time you see it, another little marvel presents itself. To me, that is the mark of a great comedy. If you see it once and laugh but never see it again, then it is all right. But if you find some new treasure each time you pop it in, well, to me that means it is destined to be a classic.

In my opinion, "The Big Lebowski" is on its way to classic status....even if it meanders for a while before it eventually gets there.

Reviewer: Erik
Grade: B-

This movie is a guide to taking it easy and just plowing through life with no direction. Hardly an inspirational role model, "The Dude" (as played by Jeff Bridges) blows through the days bowling, drinking too much and smoking pot.

Sure, there's no real plot to this movie, but the entire movie is about apathy, pretty much. "The Dude" doesn't work. Nor do his friends. When they become bungled up in a ransom scheme, they screw it up. "The Dude" is more concerned about spilling his drink while he's being violently pulled into a car. He's more concerned about his peed-on rug than anything.

This is hardly a movie that will open eyes. The Coen brothers' "Fargo" had a way better message, albeit a pretty quirky ride in itself. "The Big Lebowski" is just about general laziness, not just from the characters but from the plot itself, which meanders here and there, every bit as directionless as our main character.

There are a lot of funny jokes here. And the few scenes with Jesus are completely over the top and VERY, VERY funny. "The Dude" is a laugh riot. His friend Walter relates everything to the Vietnam War. And his buddy Donny can't get a word out. These are some funny characters here. The dialogue is great.

On the downside, some of the hazy hallucination sequences that "The Dude" experiences are a tad overboard. One in particular involves him being in a porno bowling movie where he floats down the lane between the legs of a line of women. Personally, I find it hard to believe his imagination would allow for anything more than the "what would it feel like to be a bowling ball" sequence.

And the nihilists get in the way the whole time. I couldn't care less for these guys. Pretty unnecessary stuff.

But, as a whole, the movie was enjoyable, with a great deal of laughs. The flaws were enough for me to knock this down a few notches, but it's still a funny movie. I'd recommend this movie to anyone looking for some good laughs.