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Featured Blu-ray review: The Big Lebowski Limited Digibook Edition

August 14th, 2011

The Big Lebowski: Limited Digibook Edition - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

The Big Lebowski is the fifth or sixth Blu-ray review I've done in the past few weeks where I felt it is almost insulting to write a plot synopsis. The Big Lebowski, like Donnie Darko or Animal House or Ferris Bueller's Day Off or The Blues Brothers or to a lesser extent Better Off Dead ("I want my two dollars!"), has gone from movie to cultural phenomenon. There are people who have never seen the movie who can still quote it enough to piece together the plot. The film has been released on DVD several times, and in High Definition on HD DVD (Remember that format?) but this is the first time it has been released here on Blu-ray. Was it worth the wait?

The Movie

The film stars Jeff Bridges as The Dude, real name: Jeff Lebowski. We meet him being described by a narrator as possibly the laziest man in Los Angeles county. Unfortunately for The Dude, his life is about to get a lot more active, for after arriving home one night, he is accosted by two men who demand a large sum of money. It seems his wife, Bunny, owes Jackie Treehorn a lot of money, which means he owes Jackie Treehorn a lot of money. To show they are serious, one of the guys pees on his rug. It is about this time the two thugs realize, whoops, wrong guy. He's not married to Bunny, he's not a millionaire, he doesn't have their money.

Latter while bowling The Dude describes what happened to his two friends, Walter and Donny, and the three of them agree that while it would be impossible to track down the thugs, he should go to the other Jeff Lebowski, henceforth known as The Big Lebowski, and ask for money to buy a new rug. As far as plans go, this is one of the more sensible ones in the movie. That said, it doesn't pan out, so The Dude just steals a replacement rug. And on he way out, he meets Bunny for the first time, who is a charming young lady. (And by that I mean she offers to give him a blow job for $1000.)

A few days later, The Big Lebowski calls The Dude and asks for his help. It seems Bunny has been kidnapped and he needs The Dude's help getting her back. As Brandt, The Big Lebowski's personal assistant explains, they think the two thugs that accosted The Dude earlier, and peed on his rug, are the same people who have now kidnapped Bunny. And since The Dude is the only one who has seen the two thugs, he's the only one that can identify them. Therefore, The Dude is the perfect courier. He takes the job thinking it's going to be really simple. Hell, he figures Bunny faked the whole thing to get more money.

Turns out, it will be anything but simple, as before the kidnappers can even give him instructions, another Lebowski drops by on The Dude. This time it's Maude, daughter of The Big, who shows up at The Dude's place with two different thugs, who beat up The Dude and steal his new rug. Then, when it comes to the night of the actual drop, Walter decides he's going to come along and switch out the real money for a bag full of his dirty underwear. At this point, the plan really spirals out of control.

The Big Lebowski wasn't a box office hit when it was first released, opening just outside the top five. Granted, it was playing in barely more than 1200 theaters and it was the biggest opening for a Coen Brothers film up to that point. However, it didn't really find an audience till it reached the home market and has since become a Cult Classic, literally. There's a religion called Dudeism based on the philosophy espoused by The Dude.

I'm not enamored by the film enough that I'm willing to join a religion over it, but it is a great movie and shows a lot of the strengths of your typical Coen Brothers film. The plot is intricate and engaging, but not as engaging as the collection of characters that populate the movie. This cast is led by Jeff Bridges as The Dude, but nearly everyone in the cast is outstanding right down to the supporting roles. The absurdity of the situations and the weirdness of the conversations makes the film infinitely quotable. It does have a sense of style that can overwhelm the substance, but while this would be a failing in a lot movies, here it is a selling point. You can zen-out and go along for the ride in a way that The Dude would very much approve of.

The Extras

Good news: The Blu-ray is not shovelware. There are extras that are new to this edition. But first, let's talk about what was ported over. There's An Exclusive Introduction, which features Mortimer Young talking about the restoration of the film based on previously found damaged prints and re-dubbing of the dialogue. It's a one-note joke, but a funny one. The Dude's Life is a ten-minute featurette on the characters in the film. The Dude Abides: The Big Lebowski Ten Years Later has the cast talking about the film's legacy. Making of The Big Lebowski is exactly what the name implies, a 25-minute making of featurette. The Lebowski Fest: An Achiever's Story is a 14-minute look at the The Big Lebowski festival. Flying Carpets and Bowling Pin Dreams: The Dream Sequence of The Dude in another making of featurette, this time focusing on the dream sequence from the film. There's an Interactive Map with real world locations from the movie. Finally, there are two image galleries. The first has Jeff Bridges discussing the photo book he shot during the making of the movie. The second in just a standard photo gallery.

There are two extras that are new to the Blu-ray, starting with a trivia game that can be played by one or two people where you have to complete the quote. Finally, there's a U-Control feature, which allows you to choose between a punctuated Picture-in-Picture commentary track, a track that identifies all of the music, and finally a counter for all the F-bombs, "Dudes", and so forth said during the movie. The Blu-ray packaging is also a Digibook, which means it comes with a booklet filled with images, essays, interview with the real life The Dude, etc. Worth checking out.

Moving onto the technical presentation, the film looks good, all things considered. The film wasn't a big-budget production back in 1998, so you can't expect it to look as good as a blockbuster release made today would look. There are some minor problems here and there, most notably with shadows and crushing. That said, it is a step up from the DVD, a large step up in many ways. The audio is equally great with clear dialogue and an unexpected number of ambient sounds, directional effects, etc. Overall it looks and sounds good compared to the average first run release coming out today, which is great considering its budget and age.

Finally we get to the price, which is $19.99 on For a film making its Blu-ray debut here, with Blu-ray exclusives, extras that push the technology, and better than expected technical presentation, this is a good price.

The Verdict

A lot of people interested in the The Big Lebowski: Limited Digibook Edition Blu-ray probably already bought it on DVD, perhaps more than once. If you are in this position, the Blu-ray is worth the upgrade. If you've never seen the film, it is worth a blind buy, assuming you are a fan of the Coen Brothers.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Big Lebowski