Blu-ray
Highly Recommended
4.5 stars
Amazon
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Overall Grade
4.5 stars

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The Movie Itself
5 Stars
HD Video Quality
4 Stars
HD Audio Quality
3.5 Stars
Supplements
2.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
2 Stars
Bottom Line
Highly Recommended

The Big Lebowski

Street Date:
August 16th, 2011
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
August 8th, 2011
Movie Release Year:
1998
Studio:
Universal Studios
Length:
119 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated R
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Oh what a tangled web you weave when all you want is compensation for someone urinating on the rug that really brought the room together. Jeff Bridges plays the offended victim looking for some kind of reparation after two goons confuse him for someone else. Calling himself "The Dude," an unemployed Los Angeles hippie slacker with a passion for bowling, Bridges is laugh-out-loud hilarious as the poor schmuck who finds himself tangled in a sordid, twisted, and utterly bizarre Raymond Chandler plot full of pornography, Nihilists, cut-off pinky-toes, and white Russians. All this on the same week as the league semifinals against the flamboyantly loud Jesus (John Turturro). Man, that sucks.

In 'The Big Lebowski,' the Coen brothers take the suspense of the mistaken-identity plot, throw in a big dose of film-noir intrigue, and mix it with kilos of the stoner comedy. The result is a hysterical ball of confusion, where The Dude becomes an unwitting participant in a kidnapping and embezzlement scheme involving a colorful array of characters which he would have never met under normal circumstances. He's the complete opposite of tough-as-nails Phillip Marlowe, which is where the majority of the humor arises — a pacifist at heart who staggers accidentally onto clue after clue pointing him to the real culprit in this surreal mystery.

When confronting the actual Lebowski (David Huddleston) the other two dolts were looking for and hoping for some kind of reparation, The Dude finds a publicly-revered, physically impaired millionaire with a young trophy-wife aptly named Bunny (Tara Reid). A kidnapping conspiracy draws him in deeper into this grim world of the privileged class, where the people think themselves ironically superior to The Dude's laidback, devil-may-care demeanor. What he discovers, of course, is a perverse, dysfunctional society with dissenting daughters (Julianne Moore), pornography kingpins (Ben Gazzara), and brown-nosing assistants (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). And he can't seem to find a way out.

It doesn't help that the filmmakers supply The Dude with assistance by his best friend Walter Sobchak, played to perfection by John Goodman. He's an overly-confident war vet with a scarily violent temper who's ultimately a push-over when it comes to his ex-wife asking him to babysit her dog. What you gotta love about this big oaf is not only the way Goodman portrays him — which is simply marvelous — but the fact that he's a closeted thrill-seeker. Look at how he turns nearly every situation into a reference to Vietnam. He doesn't say it outright, but it's pretty clear he joins The Dude on this crazy joyride because he's bored with his life. Sadly, he only ends up sabotaging everything.

Ultimately, the real pleasure in watching this terrific cult favorite about the bleak, sleazy cosmic comedy that is humanity is the brilliant, highly-quotable dialogue, especially between Bridges, Goodman, and whenever Steve Buscemi's Donny appears. The rapport and back-and-forth among the three men feels genuine, as if they've been friends for years. We're simply coming along for the ride like Sam Elliot's Stranger, eavesdropping on their uproarious conversations. There's never a moment when their harsh language seems scripted or artificial, but in fact spontaneous and spur-of-the-moment. These are real men reacting to the unusual circumstances only the Coens could dream up, making it all the more hilarious.

Roger Deakins is at the helm providing beautiful photography to amp up the film's dark noir aesthetic while maintaining a good-humored atmosphere throughout. The cast of potential suspects are surrounded with a thick air of ambiguity thanks to the many deep shadows that linger about the usually well-lit Los Angeles. The comedy is a delicious blend of the weirdly fantastical living in the underbelly of the City of Angels and an absurdist take on the classic murder mystery of Hollywood's Golden Age. If we're left with a morally ambiguous conclusion, it's intentional because as Bridges puts it, "The Dude abides," meaning he's only a happenstance character on the stage of life, going with the flow — where ever the wind blows — rather than questioning it.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

After years of anticipation, Universal Studios Home Entertainment finally brings 'The Big Lebowski' to Blu-ray in a Limited Edition Digibook. The packaging is a handsome, glossy and sturdy 28-page booklet with the same cover design as the two-disc 10th Anniversary Edition DVD and some lightly embossed edges. Inside is a review excerpt from the Rolling Stones, an interview with Jeff Dowd (the inspiration behind The Dude), character descriptions, a brief note on the film's legacy, trivia questions, quotes and many stills.

The Region Free, BD50 disc also contains a digital copy of the movie. It starts with a series of internet-based trailers before viewers are greeted with Universal's normal menu option. Only, every time users select one of those options, we hear a quote from the movie.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Touting a fresh remaster for this limited edition release, 'The Big Lebowski' makes a rather handsome and spiffy presentation on Blu-ray. The 1080p/VC-1 encode (1.85:1) nicely reproduces Roger Deakins's stylish photography, boasting a rich, warm palette with lots of shadows. Primaries remain bold and intense while charming secondary hues generate an ironically mellow and congenial aesthetic. Sequences inside the bowling alley are a great example of this, an environment with a great deal of color and light. Contrast has been turned up a notch from previous presentations, but it doesn't ruin the picture in any significant way. In fact, it's comfortably bright and very well-balanced while black levels yield a deep richness that only adds appeal, providing the image with a good cinematic quality.

The high-def transfer also exhibits terrific definition in various scenes with excellent visibility in the dark shadows and precise, sharply rendered fine-object detailing. We can plainly make out the threading of the Dude's robe, the individual hairs in Walter's beard and the intricate design of Dude's new rug. Though there are few understandable moments of softness throughout, the video displays great, distinct clarity as well, making this an appreciable improvement over the HD DVD release from 2007 (which looked quite good in its day!). One thing to note, however, is that part of the remastering process was the use of digital noise reduction (DNR). Thankfully, its application is not terribly damaging and only noticeable in a couple of scenes when straining to look for it.

All in all, 'The Big Lebowski' hits the Blu-ray lanes with a great picture presentation fans will surely love.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The popular cult comedy arrives with a strong DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that also improves upon previous releases, though it won't compare with many newer, more-memorable features. The character-driven film though does come with strong, intelligible dialogue so that every joke and silly conversation is perfectly heard. There are a few moments, however, where vocals can seem a bit hollow and empty. Even weirder is when the entire soundstage suddenly leans heavily to the left, causing an unfortunate issue with overall balance. The strange effect is most noticeable in Ch. 18, around the 1:37.43 mark as the Dude and Walter confront the Big Lebowski.

But on the positive side of things, the lossless mix exhibits excellent dynamics and clarity with an adequate, healthy dose of low bass. Imaging is attractive and welcoming with a nice spacious feel to it and fluid channel separation. On the whole, the audio presentation is good with more positives than negatives and does the job it's intended to do.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

Universal has ported over all the special features from the 10th Anniversary Edition DVD and the 2007 HD DVD, but also includes a couple new surprises.

  • An Exclusive Introduction (SD, 5 min) — The tongue-in-cheek intro with film preservationist Mortimer Young is just as funny as ever.

  • The Dude's Life (HD, 10 min) — A nice collection of interviews with the cast and Coen brother talking about some of the characters.

  • The Dude Abides: The Big Lebowski Ten Years Later (HD, 10 min) — An extension to the previous piece as the cast shares their thoughts on the movie's legacy, the dialogue, the production and working with the Coen brothers.

  • Making of The Big Lebowski (SD, 25 min) — A rather standard making-of featurette covering the usual points. Interviews of the Coen brothers and the actors are focused mostly on the casting, characters and praising the performances.

  • The Lebowski Fest: An Achiever's Story (SD, 14 min) — A small taste of the documentary titled 'The Achievers,' a look at the people who attend The Lebowski Festival.

  • Flying Carpets and Bowling Pin Dreams: The Dream Sequence of The Dude (HD, 4 min) — As the title suggests, this is a closer look at the extravagant dream sequence with funny anecdotes about the production and on-set shenanigans.

  • Interactive Map (HD) — A map where viewers can click on a various events within the movie and watch a short clip mixed with actual location footage and a brief narration.

  • Jeff Bridges Photo Book (HD, 18 min) — Jeff Bridges talks about a book he made especially for the cast and crew, filled with the photos he shot himself. Really cool stuff.

  • Photo Gallery (SD, 3 min) — Now viewers can enjoy those same photos in a separate segment set to music from the film.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

For this Blu-ray edition of 'The Big Lebowski,' Universal offers a decent set of exclusive material. The disc also includes a Digital Copy for portable devices, pocketBLU app, My Scenes, News Ticker and BD-Live.

  • U-Control — Three selections are offered in this special feature. First is a picture-in-picture companion piece with voiceover insights on the narrative and info on the actors and characters. Next is a music-identifier with info on the particular song playing, and users can create a custom playlist or purchase directly from iTunes. Finally, there is an on-screen counter called "Mark It, Dude," which keeps track of every F-bomb, Dude and when someone makes reference to the Big Lebowski.

  • Worthy Adversaries: What's My Line (HD) — Watch the movie again with a fun and rather challenging interactive trivia game. It's a one or two-player game that tests your knowledge of the movie's dialogue, and users can play as either The Dude or Walter.

Final Thoughts

'The Big Lebowski' is the hilarious cult comedy favorite with Jeff Bridges and John Goodman in one their most memorable and often-quoted roles. From the genius creative duo the Coen brothers, the film is a subtle homage to classic detective noir, showing the most unlikely sleuth tangled in a major kidnapping scheme. It's a marvelous piece of work which has grown over time into a cultural phenomenon and endlessly celebrated for its imaginative style and humor. The Blu-ray arrives as a handsome limited edition digibook with a strong remastered video presentation and good audio. Most of the supplements are ported over from previous releases, but some new material is enough incentive for this being a highly recommended purchase for fans everywhere.

Technical Specs

  • Limited Edition Digibook + Digital Copy
  • BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc
  • Region Free

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/VC-1

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.85:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • English Dolby Digital 2.0
  • French DTS 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH
  • French
  • Spanish

Supplements

  • Featurettes
  • Introduction
  • Interactive Map
  • Photo Gallery

Exclusive HD Content

  • U-Control (Picture-in-Picture and Text)
  • Interactive Pop-Up Trivia Game
  • Digital Copy
  • BD-Live Functionality
  • My Scenes
  • pocketBLU app
  • News Ticker

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