[Screen It]


(1998) (Jeff Bridges, John Goodman) (R)

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Bad Attitude
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Comedy: A laid back, unemployed man whose only passion is bowling with his buddies, gets wrapped up in a kidnaping scheme when he's mistaken for a millionaire with the same name.
Jeff Lebowski (JEFF BRIDGES) is a laid back, unemployed man who enjoys drinking White Russians, smoking pot, and bowling with his buddies Donny (STEVE BUSCEMI) and Walter (JOHN GOODMAN). Upon returning home one day, he's roughed up by some thugs who work for Jackie Treehorn (BEN GAZZARA), a porn publisher who's looking for Jeff's wife, Bunny (TARA REID), who owes him money.

The problem is, the thugs are really looking for the millionaire Jeff Lebowski (DAVID HUDDLESTON), and once they realize their mistake they leave, but not before one of them urinates on the carpet. Walter, a high-strung Vietnam vet, persuades the poorer Lebowski, who calls himself "The Dude," to contact the millionaire to get a new rug. The Dude does just that, but instead of getting a new floor covering, he gets himself in a heap of trouble.

It seems someone has kidnaped Bunny and Lebowski wants The Dude to deliver the ransom money. When Walter's alternative plan to foil the kidnapers and steal Lebowski's money goes awry, however, The Dude finds himself hunted by Treehorn's thugs and a group of German nihilists. He also meets Lebowski's adult daughter, Maude (JULIANNE MOORE), an avant- garde artist who tells him the kidnaping has been faked. From that point on and after several close calls, The Dude does everything he can to return his life back to normal.

If they're fans of someone in the cast, or of the Coen brothers and their films ("Fargo," "Raising Arizona," etc...), they just might. Preteens, though, will probably have no interest in this film.
For pervasive strong language, drug content, sexuality and brief violence.
  • JEFF BRIDGES plays a laid back, unemployed man who drinks White Russians, smokes pot, and generally just wants to bowl with his buddies. He cusses a lot and also sleeps with Maude.
  • JOHN GOODMAN plays a high-strung Vietnam vet who smokes, drinks some, and interferes in others' lives and is then nonchalant about any bad repercussions. He also aims his handgun at another bowler over an insignificant disagreement.


    OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
    Any time a movie opens with a tumbleweed -- straight from an old western flick ---- lightly bouncing its way through downtown Los Angeles and accompanied by the twangy tune, "Tumbling Tumbleweeds," you can be pretty sure you're not watching an ordinary film. Of course that description fits every picture released by the Coen brothers.

    Those sibling artists and their films -- "Fargo," "Raising Arizona," "Barton Fink," and several others -- have long been favorites among critics and moviegoers who want something more than your standard issue Hollywood release. Essentially "high-end" independent filmmakers, Joel, the director, and Ethan, the producer, have consistently delivered interesting, entertaining, and decidedly offbeat films for more than a decade.

    With the success of their critically acclaimed and Oscar winning hit "Fargo" from 1997, their latest release is faced with mounting anticipation and eager questions. How would they follow up that hit? Would it be a more straight-laced film like "Fargo," or something more surreal in the mode of "Barton Fink?" For typical Hollywood types, this would probably create many meetings with the studio's big brass, as well as public surveys, countless rewrites, and a great many Maalox moments.

    Noted for their laid back production and shooting styles, however, the Coen brothers simply set out to make another one of their signature abstract, but always interesting films. With "The Big Lebowski," they've definitely succeeded. More in tune with their earlier works than with "Fargo," this film plays out much like a night of wild dreams and nightmares after eating an odd combination of food the night before. In fact, the movie contains a few of its own strange dream scenes, including an Ali Baba-type flying carpet moment, and a Busby Berkeley inspired sequence that's all over the cinematic map. It's weird, but it comes off as eye candy in a way only the Coen's could deliver.

    As in many of their other films, they've also succeeded in scoring another casting coupe. Featuring a strong ensemble cast -- including Coen film regulars such as Steve Buscemi, John Goodman and John Turturro, as well as "newcomers" Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore -- the brothers have fashioned a story that showcases the performers and the unique characters they inhabit.

    Three time Oscar nominee Bridges ("Starman," "Fearless") has always been, in our view, one of the better actors working in films today. Easily dropping into whatever role in which his services are needed, Bridges has always been completely believable as any of the wide range of characters he's played. Here, sporting mismatched "beach" clothing and listening to tape recordings of previous bowling matches for mediation/relaxation, Bridges creates a guy who dropped out of society long ago and doesn't really care. Of course that's so much the better for the plot that then shakes up that laid back lifestyle.

    John Goodman ("The Borrowers" and TV's "Roseanne") also creates a highly interesting character -- a high strung, loudmouth Vietnam vet. Ready to explode at any moment and very serious about bowling, Goodman is fun to watch in this definitely offbeat creation. Steve Buscemi ("The Wedding Singer," "Fargo"), on the other hand, who usually plays such characters, is resigned here to playing the reserved, third banana. While you keep waiting for him to do something outrageous, it never comes as Goodman's character constantly bullies him into submission. Still, it's always a delight to find him in any film.

    The outrageous performance award goes to John Turturro ("Barton Fink," "Quiz Show") who plays a hyped up Latino bowler by the name of Jesus Quintana. Dressed in colorful, skintight outfits and sporting one long, painted fingernail, the brief moments he appears on screen are wild and one only wishes there were more moments with him. While we're initially led to believe that some big showdown between him and The Dude's team will happen, it unfortunately never does.

    In fact, that's part of the film's biggest problem. There are so many quirky characters and individual moments that you expect something really grandiose or exciting to happen. Sure it's fun to watch as the Coen's and cinematographer Roger Deakins ("Fargo") deliver some impressively shot, but always off-kilter scenes that -- in the truest sense of the phrase -- are eye- popping eye candy. For instance, an interesting, and nearly stomach churning moment involves our seeing the point of view of a bowling ball making its way down the alley, end over end over end.

    Yet, after a while -- like consuming candy of the normal type -- the allure begins to fade when that appetite is satiated. After seeing all of this wild visual stuff, and meeting these uniquely quirky characters, one expects something more from the story than what is ultimately delivered. While it's interesting for a while and the oddities hold our attention, the plot eventually begins to drag. Proof positive was listening to the audience at our screening, as the laughter at the onscreen outrageousness slowly but surely faded during the latter reels.

    Much of the plot rides on the eager, over determination of Goodman's character to "fix" things that then obviously go wrong due to his overzealous plans. It's funny at first -- a comedy of errors and oddities -- but after a while we pick up on that pattern and soon too easily predict where they'll next go wrong and what the results will be. It doesn't entirely ruin the film, but it lets out a let of the air from the proceedings.

    The script does have its decent moments, including the fact that everyone -- even a dignified butler -- finishes their sentences to Bridges' character with "dude" that makes this seem like a surfer or "Bill & Ted" movie. One wishes, however, that the Coen's -- who collaboratively wrote the script -- had focused as much energy making the plot as quirky and fun as the characters and visual elements. Much of the film's tone is odd just for odd's sake, and while that is often interesting, it can only take a movie so far before we grow acclimated and realize that it's doing nothing to move the story onward.

    Even so, it's not a horrible problem, and this release will probably please fans of the Coen brothers and their previous works. One thing is for certain -- you'll probably be hard pressed to find another film this year that's as interesting to watch. With a fun visual style and deeply drawn and definitely quirky characters, it's just too bad they couldn't deliver as good a script to complete their cinematic trifecta. As it stands, it burns out too quickly in our eyes to be considered as one of their best films, but still comes off as an oddly entertaining piece. Thus, we give "The Big Lebowski" a 6.5 out of 10.

    Extreme profanity (more than 250 "f" words) is the most obvious objectionable material found in this movie. Even so, there is drug and alcohol use (pot smoking and heavy drinking), nudity (bare breasts), sexuality (some suggestive lines, an implied encounter) and violence (a person smashes a car with a crow bar, a person bites off another person's ear, some people are hit, etc...). Despite all of the above, much of it is played for laughs, but that may concern some parents about it giving the wrong message about such behavior. Thus, we suggest that you look through the material should you or someone in your family wish to see this film.

  • The Dude smokes pot on several occasions throughout the movie.
  • The Dude drinks White Russians throughout the movie.
  • The Dude and Walter often drink beer (or have beer in front of them) at the bowling alley.
  • We see a passed out man (with an empty liquor bottle next to him) floating (on a blow up mattress) in a pool.
  • Treehorn drugs The Dude with something that knocks him out.
  • Although neither bloody nor gory, a thug urinates on The Dude's rug in front of him (we see the urine stream).
  • The Dude opens a wad of gauze that reveals a cut off little toe (both of which are just a little bloody).
  • Walter bites off a German thug's ear (we see it fly through the air) and both his mouth and the side of the thug's head are bloody.
  • Some may see The Dude's laid back, pot smoking behavior as having a little of both.
  • Some may see Walter's abrasive, militant and interfering behavior (the latter of which gets The Dude in trouble, to which Walter is rather nonchalant) as having both. Additionally, he constantly belittles Donny and often tells him to "shut up."
  • Treehorn is a porn tycoon and sends his goons to beat up The Dude (albeit, they mistakenly get the wrong Lebowski).
  • A group of German thugs has both as they threaten The Dude and the others.
  • The Dude opens a carton of half and half and drinks it in the grocery store (not seen, but we do see the cream on his moustache).
  • A thug urinates on The Dude's rug in front of him.
  • The Dude refers to an Asian American (not seen) as a "Chinaman," of which Walter later corrects him. He also starts to refer to Lebowski (whom he sees in a wheelchair) as "crippled" and then "handicapped." Later, Lebowski says that a "Chinaman" took his legs in a war (leaving him paralyzed).
  • The Dude tells a butler that Lebowski told him to take any rug in the house (he didn't) and so The Dude leaves with one.
  • We hear that another bowler served time for exposing himself to an eight-year-old.
  • Walter plots to steal Lebowski's million dollar ransom (that may jeopardize Bunny's life if she's really been kidnaped).
  • Maude has sex with The Dude so that he'll unknowingly impregnate her.
  • Walter, thinking that Lebowski is faking his paralysis, picks him up from his wheelchair and drops him to the floor in a heap.
  • Some viewers may find scenes listed under "Violence" as also tense, but most are played more for comedy or a bizarre quality.
  • Walter pulls out his gun and aims it (seriously) at another bowler over a slight argument they get in regarding a score.
  • Handgun: Walter pulls out his gun and aims it (seriously) at another bowler over a slight argument they get in regarding a score.
  • Uzi: Accidentally fires when it hits the road and puts several bullet holes in The Dude's car.
  • Sword: Used by a thug to threaten The Dude, Walter, and Donny.
  • Phrases: "Banging" (sexual), "Shut the 'f' up," "Dipsh*t," "Jerk off" (both as a verb and a noun), "Bitch," "Slut" and "Whore" (toward women), "Loser," "Piss," "Creep," "Pain in the ass," "Bastard," "Nitwit," "Pissed off" and "Scum."
  • The Dude smokes pot several times and makes it look cool to do so.
  • The Dude opens a cartoon of half and half and drinks it in the grocery store (not seen, but we do see the cream on his moustache).
  • Some thugs repeatedly dunk The Dude's head in the toilet.
  • A thug urinates on The Dude's rug in front of him.
  • Walter jumps out of a moving car and rolls on the road.
  • A thug drops a marmot into the bathtub with The Dude and the little critter panics (as does The Dude) as it tries to get out of the water.
  • Some thugs suddenly grab The Dude.
  • We hear a minor bit of suspenseful music in one or two scenes.
  • None.
  • At least 259 "f" words, 36 "s" words, 10 slang terms for male genitals (the "d," "c," and "p" words along with "rod" and "Johnson"), 1 slang term for female genitals ("beaver"), 22 "ass" words (6 using "hole"), 7 hells, 2 damns, 1 S.O.B., and 7 uses of "G-damn," 5 of "Jesus," 2 of "Jesus Christ," and 1 use each of "Oh Jesus," "Lord," "By God," "For Christ's sakes" and "God" as exclamations.
  • Bunny wears a cleavage-revealing bikini.
  • Bunny tells The Dude (upon first meeting him), "I'll suck your c*ck for a thousand dollars" and then tells a butler that he'll have to pay one hundred dollars to watch.
  • From a distance we briefly see Maude's bare butt (in a thong) and her bare breasts as she turns around.
  • Maude tells The Dude that her artwork is often called "vaginal."
  • Maude asks The Dude, "Do you like sex...coitus?" She then says that she likes it too and then mentions women who engage in it compulsively, referring to Bunny.
  • Maude shows The Dude a porn videotape starring Bunny who we see in a skimpy outfit that reveals part of her butt. Another woman then walks in and we see her bare breasts.
  • We see several shots of a bare-breasted woman being tossed up and down in the air on a large tarp.
  • When a porn publisher talks about everything going electronic, The Dude says, "I still jerk off manually."
  • The Dude uses the side of a pencil to shade in what was written on a pad of paper (the indentation) and sees a drawing of a cartoon man with a large, erect penis.
  • It's implied that The Dude and Maude have sex as we see them afterwards in bed together and she comments on conceiving.
  • Walter smokes several times during the movie.
  • Lebowski must deal with his daughter's assumed kidnaping.
  • That The Dude smokes pot several times and makes it look cool, as does the movie about his unemployed, laid back lifestyle.
  • Much of the following appears to be aimed more for a comedic tone than one of graphic violence or suspense:
  • Some thugs grab The Dude and carry him into the bathroom (hitting his head on door molding along the way). There they repeatedly dunk his head in the toilet.
  • Walter pulls out his gun and aims it (seriously) at another bowler over a scoring dispute.
  • A person punches and knocks out The Dude.
  • Walter's Uzi accidentally goes off when it strikes the road. Its bullets hit The Dude's car that then crashes.
  • The Dude opens a wad of gauze that reveals a cut off little toe (both of which are just a little bloody), implying that someone snipped off a person's toe.
  • Some thugs come into The Dude's place and smash things with what looks like an oar or a bat. They then threaten to return the next day and cut off The Dude's genitals.
  • Walter takes a crowbar and thrashes a new car (that he believes belongs to the person they think stole money from them), breaking most of the glass and headlights, and denting other parts. The owner then rushes out, takes the crowbar and does the same to The Dude's car.
  • A cop throws his mug and hits The Dude on his head. He then pushes over The Dude's chair and repeatedly kicks him on the floor.
  • The Dude returns home to see that his place has been ransacked.
  • Walter, thinking that Lebowski is faking his paralysis, picks him up from his wheelchair and drops him to the floor in a heap.
  • Some German thugs burn The Dude's car and then confront him, Walter, and Donny. Walter eventually throws a bowling ball that strikes one of them in the gut, and then grabs another and bites off his ear, and finally punches the other one.

  • Reviewed February 27, 1998

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