When reviewing modern classics such as The Big Lebowski, it’s difficult to figure out where to start. Do you talk about the fan following, the events that take place in honor of it, the fact that it’s still as funny and original after ten years or do you simply treat it as any other film and pretend that you’re the first one to discover its brilliance? The real answer is you can’t do any of those things because everyone has already done them tenfold, either when it first came out or just yesterday when some other movie critic on some other website decided to sit down and review one of their favorite films. Simply put, The Big Lebowski is a modern classic in every sense of the word.
You all know the plot, but let me recount it anyway. Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) is mistaken for being some other Lebowski and as such his life begins to turn upside down. Normally laid back and living with no real cares in the world (or job), The Dude is forced to embark on a quest to clear his name and take his friends along with him, lest he be forever burdened by this case of mistaken identity. It also doesn’t help that a couple of thugs broke into his house and stole his rug, which really just tied the room together. So that, in essence, is what the film is about…but it really is so much more.
As with most films that stand the test of time, The Big Lebowski isn’t so much known for its plot per say, but rather the characters that inhabit it. The situations that the characters share continue to amuse audiences to this day and for good reason—they’re still funny. There isn’t a piece of footage in this film that doesn’t still hold up and it really is just a fantastic film all around. Of course when I first saw it I wouldn’t have said that as I, for some reason, expected something wildly different from it. All I ever heard was how brilliant the film was and I expected to be blown away by it right away. The thing about The Big Lebowski, however, is that like The Dude, it’s laid back and you only pick up on hilarity and subtly of the film when you yourself Zen out and can begin to truly appreciate the film for what its worth. Or, you know, just get hammered with White Russians.
The great thing about the film is how much you pick up from it over time. With repeated viewings more and more things begin to pop out at you and the performances of each of the characters becomes richer and richer. There’s certainly some strange moments in the film, but it’s all part of its charm and what makes it a cult classic. I think the very fact that there isn’t really anything quite like it to have come along before it or since it is what keeps it feeling fresh and new even after ten years. Here’s hoping I can still say the same thing when the 20th anniversary edition comes out.
Sadly the thing about classic films is it’s hard to gush much about them as you’re just beating a broken at that point. This may be one of my shortest film reviews, but when it comes to something like The Big Lebowski, you can pretty much just utter its name and know where people stand. Needless to say the film comes Highly Recommended (and with repeat viewings mandatory).
Now here is something I can talk about for quite a few paragraphs! The new two-disc DVD edition (also released in a limited edition bowling ball gift set) packs on the extras, both old and new. The set itself arrives in a standard two-disc amaray case with insert advertising Lebowski merchandise. Disc art is the usual Universal reflective mirrored surface. No fancy outer covering or anything, but plenty of goodies are inside.
The anamorphic widescreen transfer here looks relatively unchanged to me, going off of my memory of the previous release of the film (I sadly don’t have it with me any longer, so I can’t do a direct comparison). Colors are strong, image is clear and clarity is crisp. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from a DVD transfer and only occasionally some ugly grain or compression (often in unison) pop up, but it’s nothing major. English and French 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks are included and sound clean and clear throughout, with perfect channel separation and some fair use of surrounds throughout. An alternative Spanish 2.0 track is included, as are English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles.
First up we have the returning extras which include “An Exclusive Introduction” (4:42), “Production Notes”, “Theatrical Trailer” (2:49), “The Making of the Big Lebowski” (24:36) and “Photo Gallery” (3:27). These are all well and good but since Universal has bestowed a new edition upon us, I recommend we tackle what’s the most important: the newly minted 2008 bonus features. Both discs features a mix of new and old extras, which change aspect ratios depending on their newness, ranging from anamorphic to letterboxed to standard full frame.
On the first disc we have “The Dude’s Life” (10:08), a look at the character and what (and who) he has inspired over the years. Fans will immediately flock to “The Dude Abides: The Big Lebowski – Ten Years Later” (10:27), which reunites the cast (individually) to talk about their roles. All the big players are here (The Coen Brothers, Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro and Julianne Moore) and all talk about their thoughts on the film, ten years later. Some of its self congratulatory and some of it’s just amazement at the continued success of the film, but it’s all quite enjoyable to watch regardless of what message you’re gleaning from it.
Moving onto the second disc we have “The Lebowski Test: An Achiever’s Story” (13:55), an inside look into the Lebowski fan community and the gatherings they continue to have. “Flying Carpets and Bowling Pin Dreams: The Dream Sequences of the Dude” (4:20) gives us a look at the construction of the dream sequence in the film and, one of the coolest pieces on the disc, “Jeff Bridges Photo Book” (17:30) has Bridges going through the photo album he made during the course of the film, page by page and talking about the images. A very cool addition and one I was hoping to see, as I know he does one for every film and have seen these extras with him before on other titles.
Overall this new two-disc edition is a must have for any fan of the film and the deluxe bowling ball packaging may be just what the Lebowski fan needs to round out his DVD shelf, as it could really tie the room together. In all, this one comes Highly Recommended.
The Big Lebowski: 10th Anniversary Edition is now available on DVD.