THE BIG LEBOWSKI
In a word, The Big Lebowski is a mess. But what a glorious,
wonderfully-entertaining mess it is. This film, the Coen Brothers'
follow-up to the critically-lauded Fargo, isn't likely to
generate the same degree of universal praise. In fact, those
expecting something along similar lines to the 1997 Oscar nominee
may be disappointed. The Big Lebowski is an off-the-wall
comedy that has more in common with Raising Arizona than
with Fargo. Its single weakness, and what amounts to little
more than a minor distraction, is that it doesn't have much of a
plot, and what there is contains the kind of gaping holes that even
the most obtuse viewer can identify.
Of course, the Coens have never done the same thing twice in a row,
so it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that The Big
Lebowski is so far afield from Fargo. Nevertheless,
the brothers' inimitable style is very much in evidence; if
anything, it may be more pronounced here. This is one weird motion
picture, but I use that term in the kindest fashion, because all of
the quirkiness adds up to a level of delightful humor that few films
this side of a Monty Python enterprise can match. This is a
comic amusement park ride - a wildly uneven movie that offers
tremendous pleasure for the moment, even if it doesn't stand up well
to post-screening analysis and scrutiny.
The Coens begin by introducing us to their latest protagonist,
The Dude (Jeff Bridges), a down-and-out, unemployed drifter who is
still mentally mired in the '60s. He spends his days moping
around his apartment, doing nothing and puffing on joints.
On rare occasions, he makes his way over to the bowling alley for a
league game with his two best friends: Walter (John Goodman), a
Polish Catholic Jew who still suffers from post-traumatic stress
from his days in Vietnam, and Donny (Steve Buscemi), a meek moron.
Most of the time, however, The Dude is content to stay at home,
which is why he's known as "the laziest man in Los Angeles County."
That is, until a group of inept crooks confuse him with The Big
Lebowski (David Huddleston), one of the city's richest businessmen.
It seems that Bunny Lebowski (Tara Reid), The Big Lebowski's
ornamental wife, owes a great deal of money to porn producer
Jackie Treehorn (Ben Gazzara). Treehorn's men mistake The Dude
(whose real name is also Lebowski) for their quarry - and it takes
them a while to realize their error (they're not Rhodes scholars).
Irritated that his carpet has been ruined by the intruders, The
Dude arranges a meeting with The Big Lebowski to extract
compensation. But things don't go exactly as planned. Soon, The
Dude finds himself on Lebowski's payroll as the bag man handling
the ransom for his employer's kidnapped wife. But the ever-
pragmatic Walter thinks The Dude should keep the money. Maude
Lebowski (Julianne Moore), The Big Lebowski's daughter, wants
the money returned to her family. Meanwhile, some innocent thief
steals The Dude's car, where the money is being stored. And, to top matters off,
there's some question about whether Bunny is really in any danger.
Much of the humor comes as a result of the sheer ineptitude of The
Dude. This guy isn't a bad choice for handling the ransom drop in a
kidnapping, he's the worst choice. He's a complete loser, and his
friends aren't any better. Walter is a gun-crazy lunatic who
threatens to shoot a cheater at the bowling alley, and Donny has a
vacuum for a brain. Ultimately, The Dude, Walter, and Donny
are the kinds of guys who seem at home in a Coen Brothers film,
but would be wildly out-of-place anywhere else (including in the
real world). In addition to these three, there are a number of
colorful supporting characters, including a hilariously over-the-top
John Turturro as a bowler named Jesus.
When it comes t
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