Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Big Lebowski: Classic slightly disappoints on Blu-ray

The Big Lebowski (Comedy, Crime)
Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Starring Jeff Bridges, John Goodman and Steve Buscemi

Universal Studios | 1998 | 119 min | Rated R | Released Aug 16, 2011

Video codec: VC-1
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
French: DTS 5.1
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
French: DTS 5.1 (less)

English SDH, French, Spanish
English SDH, French, Spanish (less)

Single 50GB Blu-ray Disc
Digital Copy

The Film 4/5

The Big Lebowski is essentially about mistaken identity if you care about the plot. Jeffrey Lebowski is known to his friends as The Dude (Bridges) and a gang of criminals pay him a visit thinking that he’s another Lebowski who happens to be a millionaire. After they urinate on his rug, he seeks out the millionaire to claim compensation.

The millionaire’s wife goes missing and the gang asks for a million dollars in ransom. The Dude is chosen as the courier.

That’s about it. The plot is incidental; this is a movie about a way of life.

The Dude hangs out with two of his bowling buddies, Walter (Goodman) and Donny (Buscemi). Walter is a Vietnam veteran who has anger management issues; Donny hardly says a word and is told to shut up every time he tries to make a comment.

The Dude is a mellow kind of a guy. He shops in his robe, gets high, and talks like he's permanently stoned. Walter is a mystery to him because he is so easily annoyed. When a competing team puts a toe over the line during a bowling game, Walter pulls out a gun and insists that it is marked down as a zero. It’s a league game after all.

The movie doesn’t take itself too seriously and can be classed as a comedy more than anything, but the style of comedy may be different to the type you are used to. Many of the jokes are clever and subtle, and it’s rare for the humor to be aimed too low.

Watching The Big Lebowski is an experience. You’re never quite sure what it is or where it is going. The plot elements aren’t very important, but everything adds up and provides a reason for the characters to do what they do. It’s the sort of movie where nothing happens, but you find yourself thinking about it days later.

Fargo and No Country for Old Men are exceptional movies from the Coen Brothers, but many fans would argue that The Big Lebowski is better. I’m not among them, but it amuses me and I’m glad to finally own it on Blu-ray.

Video Quality 3.5/5
Although the Blu-ray is a vast upgrade over the DVD, I’m a little disappointed with the overall look. Colors are much improved and everything looks brighter and cleaner, but the VC-1 presentation could have been better. Fine detail is present in a few scenes, but is lacking for the most part. Faces in particular seem badly defined. It just about earns a passing grade, but don’t expect to be dazzled.

Audio Quality 4.5/5
The English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track sounds great. The songs carry a lot more weight than in previous releases. Dialogue is clear throughout and the predominantly front-heavy mix blends well with the action. No complaints about the sound.

Special Features 4/5

Worthy Adversaries: What's My Line Trivia – A game for one or two players in which you have to supply missing dialogue from The Dude and Walter.

An Exclusive Introduction (4:40, SD)

The Dude’s Life (10:08, HD)

The Dude Abides: The Big Lebowski Ten Years Later (10:26, HD)

Making of The Big Lebowski (24:35, SD)

The Lebowski Fest: An Achiever’s Story (13:53, SD)

Flying Carpets and Bowling Pin Dreams: The Dream Sequences of The Dude (4:20, HD)

Interactive Map

Jeff Bridges Photo Book (17:30, HD) – Bridges took shots while filming and explains them here.

Photo Gallery (3:25, SD)

U-Control: Three features with PiP, text and a profanity counter.
Scene Companion
The Music of The Big Lebowski
Mark It, Dude

28-page digibook

The Big Lebowski is a typically quirky effort from the Coen Brothers. While not their very best work, it deserves a place in your collection. Bridges and Goodman excel in their roles and hold the whole thing together. The Blu-ray presentation enhances the experience, but not quite as much as I had hoped. The packaging is good and there’s plenty of behind the scenes information if The Big Lebowski is your kind of film.

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