BULL DURHAM has become one of the classic sports movies of all time, being immortalized in every list of great sports movies. ESPN talks about it every baseball season and it seems like we always hear about someone gushing over the film. I’m a fan of the film and just when I’m ready to pass it off as being overrated, I sit down and watch again, inevitably remembering how much fun it really is. It’s hard to believe it has been 22 years since this film was released in theaters.
Kevin Costner plays baseball players too well. He captures that arrogance that all ball players have, but always manages to let out a hint of insecurity, causing you to relate to his characters. Although some would argue that Billy Chapel in FOR LOVE OF THE GAME is his best baseball player character, for my money, it’s Crash Davis in BULL DURHAM. Crash is a real person, with real dreams and that brings him to a level that all of us can relate to. The scene where he talks about making it to “the show” on the bus is great, only because it allows us to sympathize with him as a person. One of the things that made Crash so great was his rapport with Tim Robbins’ Nuke LaLoosh and Susan Sarandon’s Annie Savoy. It’s those relationships that make us like Crash Davis and in the end, make us like the movie.
In fact, one could even argue that Susan Sarandon turned in the best performance in the film. I don’t think she’s ever been sexier on camera and her character was a hard one to pull off. To put it bluntly; she’s…promiscuous. But she’s really the character that drives the story, so the audience has to relate to, care for and at the end, root for her to come out on top. A lesser actress could have easily blurred that line and turned the character into a villain of sorts. But that argument could be made for the big three, because without their natural charm and charisma, the film would have suffered. Give credit to director Ron Shelton for realizing the talent he had in front of the camera and for letting them carry the film. And be honest for a second; if you haven’t seen BULL DURHAM in a couple of years, do you even remember any of the baseball scenes? Do you remember any of the games played in the movie? I don’t. I remember the characters, and there’s not too many sports movies where you remember the people playing the games and not anything about the games themselves.
The greatest achievement of BULL DURHAM is how it manages to be so many things at once. It’s funny, dramatic, authentic, touching and at the same time, it manages to develop three characters that are remembered twenty years later. First time director Ron Shelton balances the various elements of the film surprisingly well and the result is a baseball movie that has proven to stand the test of time.
Video: The transfer is a little disappointing considering how far we’ve come with Blu-ray video quality lately. It’s better than the DVD version, but not by much.
Audio: The sound is better, but again, not so much so that it makes you want to throw away the DVD and buy the Blu-ray.
Note that the Blu-ray contains zero special features, but the DVD that’s included in the set contains all of the below features, making it identical to the DVD special edition. I can understand not bothering with some of the lame features, but the commentaries really should have been transferred over.
Commentary with Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins: This isn’t as great as it sounds because it feels like neither of these guys have seen the movie in many, many years. There are a lot of dead spots, which makes it hard to get into.
Commentary with Ron Shelton: Ron drops a lot of great facts, like the fact he played minor league baseball, and keeps the commentary rolling. This was his first film, so he was very passionate about what he had to say.
Featurettes, including The Greatest Show on Dirt (19:21), Diamonds in the Rough (15:54), Between the Lines (29:17): Normally, I’d review all of these separately, but these were so similar in style that they should have been combined or deleted completely. They’re basically making-of featurettes that show some classic footage as well as updated interviews. I’d pick one and go with it.
Kevin Costner (2:10) and Sports Wrap (2:58): I can’t believe these pass as a special features.
Basically, they’re long trailers for the film and not worth the time.
There are also some Previews