Big Lebowski [1998]

After the tight plotting and quirky intensity of Fargo, this casually amusing follow-up from the prolifically inventive Coen (Ethan and Joel) brothers seems like a bit of a lark, and the result was a box-office disappointment. The good news is, The Big Lebowski is every bit a Coen movie, and its lazy plot is part of its laidback charm. After all, how many movies can claim as their hero a pot-bellied, pot-smoking loser named Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) who spends most of his time bowling and getting stoned? And where else could you find a hairnetted Latino bowler named Jesus (John Turturro) who sports dazzling purple footgear, or an erotic artist (Julianne Moore) whose creativity consists of covering her naked body in paint, flying through the air in a leather harness, and splatting herself against a giant canvas? Who else but the Coens would think of showing you a camera view from inside the holes of a bowling ball, or an elaborate Busby Berkely-styled musical dream sequence involving a Viking goddess and giant bowling pins? The plot--which finds Lebowski involved in a kidnapping scheme after he's mistaken for a rich guy with the same name--is almost beside the point. What counts here is a steady cascade of hilarious dialogue, great work from Coen regulars John Goodman and Steve Buscemi, and the kind of cinematic ingenuity that puts the Coens in a class all their own. Be sure to watch with snacks in hand, because The Big Lebowski might give you a giddy case of the munchies. --Jeff Shannon

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