Picks and Pans Review: The Big Lebowski

UPDATED 03/16/1998 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 03/16/1998 at 01:00 AM EST

Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi

This latest comedy thriller by the gifted Coen brothers (Joel directs, Ethan produces, and they co-write) is a long way from Fargo, the duo's previous effort. The Big Lebowski, while fitfully amusing and filled with characters even more eccentric than those in Fargo, seems as synaptically challenged as its main character, an aging hipster (Bridges) named Jeffrey Lebowski, who has spent the last couple decades smoking weed, slurping White Russians and bowling competitively. All the dope and drinking (I'm not too sure about the bowling) have taken their toll on his brain and on the movie's plot, with both proving incapable of getting from point A to point B with anything approaching speed or coherence.

The excessively garbled story opens with Bridges being beaten up by two thugs who mistake him for another Jeffrey Lebowski, an aging millionaire whose slutty young wife owes money. Bridge's Lebowski, who prefers being called the Dude to his given name ("Or El Duderino if you're not into the brevity thing," he says), is soon meeting unsavory types, handling payoff money and generally having his life turned upside down and his bowling schedule disrupted.

All of this is kind of amusing but features some awfully self-indulgent stretches, particularly a Busby Berkeleyish, bowling-themed production number. Bridges is his usual aces, Goodman is effectively big and loud as an overzealous Vietnam vet who pulls a gun at the slightest provocation, and a snarling John Turturro, clad in a skintight lilac jumpsuit, steals his every scene as a rival bowler. (R)

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