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The Big Lebowski (1998)

Directed by:

Ethan Coen

Joel Coen

Rating: 9/10

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 18

On DVD

Country: United States, United Kingdom

A lead character called ‘The Dude’, a bowling alley setting and a key plot point involving a piss-stained rug do not exactly sound like the tasty ingredients for one of the best comedies of the Nineties but the Coen Brothers were just the right men to pull it off.

Jeffrey ‘The Dude’ Lebowski begins his adventure when two hoodlums break into his flat and relieve themselves on his rug erroneously believing it belong to his Big Shot namesake. Looking for compensation, The Dude confronts the intended victim, only to be inadvertently drawn into a web of kidnappings, ransom drops and nihilists. The remarkably laid back stoner enlists the help of his two bowling buddies – the opinionated and crass Walter (Goodman) and mute whipping boy Donny (Buscemi) – as they try and unravel mysteries that they don’t actually have anything to do with.

As expected with a Coen Brothers’ movie, The Big Lebowski is all about memorable characters and their foibles and they really succeed in this respect. The stoner essence of the The Dude is perfectly captured by an on-form Jeff Bridges playing against his previous type (thirty years of mediocrity) and John Goodman’s foul-mouthed ape Walter delivers ninety percent of the insultingly funny lines. Donny is merely there to soak up abuse and this is a nice counterweight to the blustering Walter. Also look out for an early role for Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Elliot as the mysterious moustachioed stranger and John Turturro in arguably the funniest scene in the film as a child-molesting bowling ace. I’d just like to clarify that there is no on-screen kiddie fiddling.

Some scenes can fall a bit flat and drag the film out a little, mainly featuring Julianne Moore’s Maude Lebowski, as the film loses it’s way at little bit in the mid-section, and it is an acquired taste that can divide opinion. After bigging it up I once had the cringing sound of silence engulf my living room.  But overall, The Big Lebowski is a stoner comedy with brains and something funnier and more well rounded than any similar attempts seen before and since.

It's Got: At least seven excellent performances, very funny dialogue, a child molester called Jesus

It Needs: A bit of consistency in the middle

DVD Extras Two disc collectors edition - Video introduction, production notes, trailers and teaser trailers, and featurettes including "The Dude's Life", "The Dude Abides: The Big Lebowski Ten Years Later", "Making of The Big Lebowski", "The Lebowski Fest: An Achiever's Story", "Flying Carpets and Bowling Pin Dreams: The Dream Sequences of the Dude" and "Jeff Bridges Photo Book". No audio commentary but there's so much to go at here that it doesn't matter. DVD Extras Rating: 10/10

Alternatives:

Fargo, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Kingpin

Summary

An excellent stoner comedy with the right mix of brains, laughs and memorable characters. The Coen Brothers’ finest? It’s a close one.

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