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BWN Nerd Review: The Big Lebowski (1998)

The Nerds assemble to for another movie review. This week’s review looks at Cohen Brothers cult classic The Big Lebowski!

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The Nerds assemble to for another movie review. This week’s review looks at Cohen Brothers cult classic The Big Lebowski!

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Nerd Review!  Every week the Nerds give you their take on a different cult classic from the Nerdosphere.  This week the guys review the 1998 Cohen Brothers’ cult classic The Big Lebowski!

The Flick:  The Big Lebowski

What’s it about? – Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski is a simple man who enjoys two things: White Russians and bowling.  When two leg breakers mistake The Dude for another Jeffrey Lebowski and try to shake him down for money owed by the other Lebowski’s wife, The Dude finds himself caught in a web of double crosses and intrigue.  He’s joined by his quiet friend Donnie and Vietnam Veteran Walter as they try to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Metacritic Score: 71 

The Bandwagon Nerds Take on The Big Lebowski

Patrick:  So, let’s start here: I love this movie.  For all the energy I spent last week running down Dumb and Dumber, I will exert the opposite energy this week.  The Big Lebowski follows the adventures of the Dude, who finds himself trying to track down the parties responsible for kidnapping Bunny.  Bunny is the wife of Jeffrey Lebowski, a millionaire who shares The Dude’s given name.  Why is the Dude on the case, you ask?  Because two thugs soiled The Dude’s rug mistakenly thinking he was the millionaire who owed the money.  What follows is a bizarre mystery full of twists and turns as the Dude just tries to get his rug back.  As he says, the rug really tied the room together.

This movie thrives on the talent of its cast bringing an odd menagerie of characters to life.  Jeff Bridges is outstanding as the Dude.  He just wants to quietly live his life and bowl, maybe sip a White Russian and smoke a joint.  Bridges is constantly exasperated with the events happening around him and yet easily lives in the moment from start to finish.  John Goodman channels some true fury as the unhinged Walter.  Julianne Moore plays Maude Lebowksi, an eccentric feminist artist with motives known only to herself.  Add to these top three actors the likes of Steve Buscemi, John Turturro (soon to be releasing his own Lebowski spinoff), Sam Elliot and Philip Seymore Hoffman and it is easy to see why this movie has had long lasting success.

The Cohen brothers talent for detail is on full display, here.  Every viewing yields some new discovery, a new hint as to what will happen next. I never tire of looking for new pieces of information.  The script is witty and quotable for days.  The mystery of Bunny’s kidnapping is very complex, but not so much that it loses the audience.  They use the bowling alley as a sort of center for the film; recalibrating the audience as the Dude, Walter and Donnie make sense of whatever turn of events has just occurred.

My favorite aspect of this movie though is that for all its ridiculousness, at the end of the day, the movie itself really is about returning to the normalcy of the mundane.  All the Dude wants to do is bowl and live quietly.  Sure, you can view him as a bum.  See him as a waste of human space.  Yet, among all the crazy characters and antics we see on the screen, the Dude is the center, finding a sense of calm among the turmoil.  The Dude abides.

Patrick’s Rating:  4.85/5

Dave:   I was genuinely excited for this weeks Nerds’ Review because I was going to get a chance to watch a movie that I had not seen before, but had heard so much about: 1998’s The Big Lebowski. Having now watched it, I find myself a bit conflicted. Allow me to elaborate.

Let’s talk about the good stuff first and that comes down to the marvelous performance of the cast. Jeff Bridges plays The Dude and his performance is spectacular. Equal parts surfer, stoner, bum, hippie, and burnout, The Dude is such a cool cat that you cannot help but love him. No one but Bridges could have likely pulled off this role so well. Half the time, The Dude is completely clueless. At other times, he is much cleverer than he lets on. Then there is John Goodman’s tremendous role as the massively unhinged Walter, who clearly has PTSD from his tour in Vietnam. Walter’s absolute certainty about various aspects and matters of which he clearly is way off the mark comprise some of the funniest moments in the movie. Julianne Moore plays Maude Lebowski, the daughter of The Big Lebowski, and as eccentric and fascinating a character as you could hope to meet. The supporting cast, including Steve Buscemi and John Turturro, are excellent in their own right, but do not shine nearly as brightly as Bridges, Goodman, and Moore.

Now for the problems. There is a lot going on in the movie, but it feels like not much is really happening for much of the time. It is difficult, at times, to figure out exactly what is going on. The Big Lebowski’s trophy wife (and apparent porn star) has been kidnapped…or has she? There is a ransom on her head and The Big Lebowski wants The Dude (aka Jeffrey Lebowski) to make the delivery. This is all fine and great but it moves a bit slowly for my taste and I never got the feeling that I truly grasped what was really happening or the real story. This has worked well in other movies, such as Pulp Fiction or The Usual Suspects. The Big Lebowski does not pull this off quite as well. There are some oddly placed dream sequences that are fun but seem almost superfluous. The F-Bombs in the movie almost seem too deliberate. I have no issues with cursing, but this almost felt like cursing for the sake of cursing and even someone like me got a bit put off after a while.

So what is the final verdict? I found The Big Lebowski to be a very good, but not great, movie. The characters are all great and unforgettable. They are as eccentric as they are engaging. The story is also very good, despite my complaints that it moves a bit slowly and is not the easiest of stories to really wrap your head around. Most of us will find The Dude utterly awesome and will find Walter seriously screwed up. The Big Lebowski definitely feels like one of those movies you need to watch multiple times to catch the subtle nuances that have made it a cult classic, of sorts. But what it all comes down to is two questions: (1) Was I entertained and (2) Was this a waste of time? I was definitely entertained by The Big Lebowski and I am glad I saw it. In the end, that is really all you can ask for in a movie.

Dave’s Rating: 3.5/5

DPP: The Big Lebowski is one of the biggest cult classics in cinema, created by the Coen Brothers.  It follows Jeff Lebowski (Jeff Bridges), preferred to be called “The Dude,” who is a lazy, pot smoking bowler, who just wants to be left alone to bowl with his friends.  Unfortunately, two hired goons mistake him for a millionaire with the same name and break into his apartment and urinate on his rug.  The Dude confronts the “Real Lebowski” to receive compensation for his rug, and is pulled into a convoluted game of a missing trophy wife, Nihilist kidnappers, pornographers, and a strange private eye.  He takes on the task of finding the missing wife with his Vietnam Veteran, loud mouthed, gun-toting bowling partner, who both believe she has kidnapped herself for the money.  It’s a great comedy, filled with eccentric characters that fill the small side stories so amazingly, you enjoy every second of this movie.  Watching a guy who is so casual, wanting nothing but a White Russian drink in his hand, continually being pulled in different directions, trying to unravel this mystery, entertains from beginning to end.  It’s not often you find a movie that spawns its own festival, Lebowski Fest, which one of the conventions takes place in my own town.  I absolutely love this movie.  Even if you are not a pot smoking bowler, you can relate to The Dude in his casual attitude and want to just live his life without disruption.  And that’s just like…my opinion, man

DPP’s Rating: 4.5/5

Bandwagon Nerds Rating:  4.1/5


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