The Big Lebowski (Collector's Edition)

I’ve been procrastinating about writing this review because really, this is a pretty worthless disc. We’ve been wading through a lot of perfunctory pseudo-special edition releases like this, and I’m getting burnt out on them. This one is no different, so if you want to save yourself reading the rest of this review, know this: The movie’s still good, the newly released DVD is just another shameless, empty, multi dip. I really like The Big Lebowski, but at first I didn’t. It’s the kind of movie that grows on you, the kind of movie that I think plays better in your head than it actually does on the screen. It probably helps that it’s so quotable. A couple of days after I saw it I found myself wandering around muttering “The Dude abides” whenever something bad would happen. It was then that I started to realize that maybe I did like it. Sure, The Big Lebowski still doesn’t exactly make me laugh out loud, but there are plenty of chuckles and Jeff Bridges, well he’s the perfect actor to play Jeff Lebowski, the right man at the right time.

Written and directed by the Coen brothers, the movie moves slow and easy as it tells the story of a guy named Lebowski who calls himself “The Dude”, His Dudeness if you prefer. He’s a relic from another era, a hippy who never quite worked past the whole peace & love thing to focus on getting rich in the 80’s. Now it’s the 90’s, and there’s the Dude, takin her easy for all us poor slobs. The character’s great, a masterstroke of laid back, grungy, probably stinky coolness.

With a guy this laid back though, something’s gotta happen if you’re going to make a movie out of him. The Dude is mistaken for another Lebowski, a rich one with a vapid, young wife. This gets him embroiled in a complicated plot of blackmail, kidnappings, and general chicanery. The Dude just kind of sails through it, things happen to him, he never really happens to them. His ambitions are modest, all he really wants is to get back his rug.

The Dude is surrounded with a cast of oddball, Coen characters. He hangs out at the bowling alley with his friends Walter and XXXX. He gets involved with unsavory characters, mixed up in the porn industry, and then finds himself running down the middle of a busy highway tripping on something pretty heavy. The Dude abides.

This is not the great, classic, oddball comedy its fans sometimes over hype it as. It’s a cult hit though, so over-hyping is often the order of the day. It is surreal, unique, and pretty damn memorable though, and that makes it a must have for any DVD buyer’s collection. Just don’t get all excited about buying this particular version over any other. I’ve dreaded writing about this disc for awhile now. Not because it’ll be difficult (it sucks, watch me rip it) but because it’s just such a beating to even waste time typing about it. It’s another repeat release with old footage and recycled features that bring absolutely nothing new to the movie. What it does do though, is provide a greedy studio with new revenue from fans that pick it up hoping they’ve finally released the definitive edition of a cult favorite. Well they haven’t.

The thing is, if The Big Lebowski had never been on DVD before, and this was their first time doing it, I’d recommend it. It’s not a bad release; in fact it’s better than any of the other previous versions of the movie on DVD. But after all the years of waiting for a worthy edition of the film on disc, well this is a disappointment. This sort of cult phenomenon deserves a serious, loaded up edition. If you’re not going to bother with that, don’t give us anything and let us just hang out with the bare-bones crappy versions we all have already instead of giving us a slightly less crappy version, but not slightly less crappy enough to be worth buying again. Basically, they’ve done to Lebowski exactly the same thing they’ve done to Office Space with its recently released “Special Edition with Flair Edition”. Universal has done the bare minimum necessary to make this Collector’s Edition release of Lebowski happen. If you’re happy with the bare minimum ok, but I think the patient fans of a cult flick like this deserve better… especially when they’re likely going to buy a helluva lot of DVDs.

So what’s actually on this thing? Not much. There’s the movie of course, and it looks good. One of the better things about the disc is that when you select “Play the Movie” you’ll be treated to a pre-film introduction by Mortimer Young. It’s mildly amusing. Enjoy it. Then there’s the film’s making of documentary. There’s only one, it’s not particularly long, and it’s filled with nothing but ancient footage taken around the time the movie was shooting. Nothing made specifically for this disc in other words. At least the aforementioned crappy Office Space release went out and got more recent interviews from some of the actors. Big Lebowski lacks the energy to do something like that.

What else? Lame ass production notes. What sort of sad person reads these? And then there’s the Photography of Jeff Bridges. When I’m looking at pictures from the set of The Big Lebowski, it might be nice if the pictures had Lebowski in them. Since Jeff is the one taking them, these don’t. Skip them.

That’s it. There’s the disc for you. It needs a commentary track at least. What a disappointment.