'90s Movie Month! "The Big Lebowski" Review

Photo Credit: Gramercy Pictures (I)

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'90s Movie Month! "The Big Lebowski" Review

Rating: R (drug content, pervasive strong language, violence, and some sexuality)
Length: 117 minutes
Release Date: Mar. 6, 1998
Directed by: Joel Coen
Genre: Comedy/Crime

"The Big Lebowski" is one of the most popular comedy films of all time and is regularly referenced in pop culture. Even though the film didn't achieve massive worldwide success when it was released in 1998, it surpassed its budget by many millions and ended up becoming admired after it was released in stores for private purchase. "The Big Lebowski" continues to sell well and is always appealing to new audiences, especially the younger college crowd.

Like many modern films, "The Big Lebowski" premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. It also received a screening at the widely popular Berlin International Film Festival prior to its official theater release. During its opening weekend, "The Big Lebowski" made $17 million in United States theaters, surpassing its budget of $15 million. When it finished its international theater run, "The Big Lebowski" had brought in over $46 million.

Jeff Bridges stars as Jeff Lebowski, also known as "The Dude," an unemployed stoner who lives in Venice, California. The part of The Dude was actually written specifically for Jeff Bridges and based heavily on Jeff Dowd, one of the members of the Seattle Liberation Front, a radical anti-war group. In fact, at one point in the film, The Dude mentions that he was one of the Seattle Seven. The Dude's character was also based on a friend of the directors named Pete Exline, a Vietnam veteran. Other than his love for marijuana, The Dude is obsessed with bowling and has his own bowling team with Walter Sobchak and Theodore Kerabatsos, played respectively by John Goodman and Steve Buscemi.

Walter Sobchak is a Vietnam veteran and The Dude's best friend of many years. Walter is obsessed with bowling to the point of putting its rules second only to the rules of Judaism, his religion, and takes a stance against bowling on the Sabbath. In spite of being very religious, he has a violent temper and will use brutal intimidation tactics when he feels he needs to settle an argument, including pulling out a crowbar or handgun. He claims he used to be a pacifist, and he is fond of saying oil was the only reason for the Gulf War. He talks about Vietnam at every chance he gets, which irritates The Dude no end.

Theodore Donald Kerabatsos, who usually goes by "Donny," is the third member of The Dude's mismatched bowling team. Unlike The Dude and Walter, Donny is a very good-natured, fun-loving guy who eagerly listens to Walter's Vietnam stories. He even interrupts Walter frequently to ask him for more details about his stories. Walter's profane, irritated response has become immortalized in pop culture references. Even though he really means well, Donny drives his friends crazy.

David Huddleston portrays Jeffrey Lebowski, the Big Lebowski himself, and a veteran who lost his legs in the Korean War who uses a wheelchair to get around. The Big Lebowski is an alleged multi-millionaire who frequently refers to The Dude as a deadbeat. Even though Jeffrey Lebowski is completely obsessed with achieving his goals and claims to be highly successful, his daughter admits that he doesn't have much money at all and is just allowed to run a portion of his late wife's estate. His daughter, Maude, is a hardcore feminist who makes a living as an artist. She sleeps with The Dude for the sole reason of having a child and does not want him to be part of her life.

These unusual characters are wrapped up in a plot that revolves around The Dude running into some thugs who are claiming to collect money owed to their boss. According to the thugs, Jeff Lebowski's late wife owed money to a man called Jackie Treehorn. After they have already beaten him and destroyed his property, the thugs realize they made a mistake and are actually looking for a completely different person who happens to share the same name. After the event, The Dude and his bowling buddies decide to seek compensation for The Dude's rug from the Jeffrey Lebowski the thugs were looking for. Their decision leads them on a wild quest involving kidnappings, crime, and drama that is both hilarious and surprisingly serious at times.

Even though "The Big Lebowski" did not perform well in theaters, it has continued to gain popularity and is now considered a cult classic much like "Clerks" and other older comedy movies that continue to enjoy success. Despite the fact "The Big Lebowski" is now an older film, the characters and story are still relevant to modern audiences, and the movie is sure to continue riding the waves of popularity for many years to come.

Rating: 4 out of 5