“The Dude abides.” That he does. Boy, the Dude’s outlook on life sure seems simple, don’t it? Just roll along, without a care in the world, and somehow things will work out in the end. Oh, sure, you might still be behind on your rent, and you may have never replaced the ruined rug that tied the room together, and one of your best friends may have died of a heart attack during an attack by German nihilists, but, hey, you know, that’s the life of the Dude, also known as Jeff Lebowski.
The Dude’s real name, of course, is where the trouble begins. You see, he returns from a trip to the supermarket, where he was buying more half-and-half for mixing White Russians, and finds a pair of thugs waiting for him. They rough him up a bit and one of them pees on his rug. Turns out they have the wrong Jeff Lebowski, but the thugs have the same nonplussed attitude toward life as their victim, except, you know, they’re a couple of creeps.
So, anyway, the Dude isn’t happy about the rug, because it really tied the room together. His friend Walter, who served in Vietnam and is um, kinda crazy, convinces the Dude that this “unchecked aggression” will not stand, and that he should get the real Jeff Lebowski to pay him for the soiled rug. The Coens are masters of understatement, so pay attention to the news on the TV during the opening supermarket scene and compare it to Walter egging the Dude onto a path that ultimately leads nowhere. Hmmmm … Perhaps the Coens were making a subtle political comment here?
Unsurprisingly, as in many of the Coen brothers’ other films, the characters’ plans soon take one wrong turn after another, and the entire situation spirals out of control. I guess this is where I should reel off the obligatory list of colorful characters: Along the way, the Dude encounters not only the real Jeff Lebowski but also his bimbo wife, who winds up kidnapped, and his kinky conceptual artist daughter, the aforementioned German nihilists, a porn director, a private detective who sadly wants to emulate the Dude, and more.
This is easily one of the Coen brothers’ best films, a masterpiece of black humor and all-around kookiness. It’s certainly right up there with “Raising Arizona” and “Fargo.”
Which brings me to this sadly sparse Collector’s Edition. Yes, the film has been remastered in anamorphic widescreen, which I realize is mucho importante to people unlike myself who own mongo home theater systems. Thankfully, the pan-and-scan version that shared the disc with the widescreen version in the earlier DVD release now has a separate SKU, although why Universal thinks any Coen brothers fans want their films cropped is beyond me.
But given this film’s cult status, where’s the featurette that delves into the subculture swirling around “The Big Lebowski”? I mean, people are having conventions around the film, which doesn’t happen with just any movie. Too bad that wasn’t addressed here. There’s also no commentary, which is a shame. On both those counts, I need to assess my usual half-star doink. Sorry, Universal.
Yes, I know the Coens really don’t like dissecting their films, so I realize that any commentary they might do would be a joke one, but, hey, that’s better than nothing. Or maybe Goodman and Bridges could have recorded a track. It’s also kind of annoying that Universal dropped the teaser trailer from this release. How much room would that have taken up?
However, ported over from the earlier release is a 30-minute making-of that’s about as close as you’ll get to the Coens actually being serious about one of their films. Well, admittedly, that “Charlie Rose Show” segment on the “Fargo” DVD is pretty cool too. But for “The Big Lebowski,” I guess this featurette will have to do. We also get photos that Bridges shot on the set of the film, along with some production notes.
Oh, and we do get a new bit of trickery for this release: An introduction by Mortimer Young of Forever Young Films. A hilarious send-up of uptight film buffs, this five-minute bit features Mortimer talking about the movie’s restoration process, which involved getting a print from Italy, cleaning it up and then re-dubbing all the dialogue with the original actors, except John Goodman, who wasn’t available. Funny stuff, guys.
The bottom line: If you don’t care about the anamorphic picture, you’re just as well off sticking with the original version. If you do care about such things, then it comes down to how badly you want to upgrade your original copy. Those who are new to this film on DVD might as well grab the Collector’s Edition. There’s also some kind of super duper edition that includes a bowling towel, coasters and some other stuff, but that’s for the fanboys. I’m happy with what I have.