Writer-director Ron Shelton’s Bull Durham still resonates, twenty-two years after its release, as the baseball movie to hold all others up to. Veteran Catcher and minor-league veteran Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) finds his contract bought out, placing him with the Durham Bulls. The Bulls’ star player is Pitcher Ebby Calvin “Nuke” Laloosh (Tim Robbins), an empty-headed hotshot who dreams of nothing more than making it to “the show,” (the major league, in layman’s terms). And the team’s hope is that Crash will be able to impart some wisdom on Laloosh to better prep him for that career leap. Meanwhile, a hardball devotee named Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon), a local who chooses one player per season as a personal “project”, selects Laloosh as flavor of the season. But it’s Crash who steals her heart and the movie quickly becomes as much about human emotions as it does baseball. Continued after the jump:
What keeps the film alive is the dynamics between these three characters. The relationships serve as the crux of the film (this being a romantic comedy and all), and their roles seem so to be constantly switching. Everytime one character has the upper hand, it’s quickly taken away and stolen by another. It’s great fun to watch and this is due largely to the writing, but just as much so to the performances. Costner’s laid-back demeanor fits this role perfectly, giving the character equal amounts of arrogance and charm. Sarandon also gives a career-defining performance, carrying the picture without ever demeaning Annie into tramp status. It’s a role that easily could have provided for a very irritating character instead of a fascinating one. And Robbins, in one of the earliest roles of his career, gives Nuke an idiocy that doesn’t teeter into hyperbole; we believe this moron is saying the words we can’t believe someone would actually say.
Shelton spent time as a minor league player and his experience in the field gives the movie a distinct signature. Whether or not this is all actually authentic doesn’t really matter; there’s a very genuine quality to the manner in which coaches and players communicate and interact. Shelton would later go on in his career to craft other renown sports-themed films (Cobb and Tin Cup), but it’s Bull Durham¸ his directorial debut, that remains his masterpiece.
While the sound on the disc is crisper than it is on the DVD, the Blu-ray manages to bring out more grain than anything else in the picture’s aesthetics. The result is a harsher (dare I say, somewhat distracting) image than what we’ve seen before from the movie.
While there’s a plethora of extras, the studio didn’t release any of them in Blu-ray. Instead, they include a version of the film on DVD and have stuck all the supplementals on that disc. Further, there’s nothing here that isn’t on the 20th anniversary edition of the film – we get a commentary by Shelton along with an additional one by Costner and Robbins. Additionally, there’s a handful of featurettes on everything from the making of the movie to an examination of America’s longstanding love for baseball. While the supplementals are thorough, they often come off more as filler than an indepth examination of the movie. Shelton’s commentary is the best of the extras, as the writer/director’s affection for a film that’s so close to his heart shines through in his words.
Baseball lover or movie lover, it doesn’t matter. Bull Durham is sharp, charming and witty and it manages to capture the best of both worlds. But if you’ve already got the 2008 DVD edition of the movie, there’s not a whole lot that you’re missing with this version.