What is the Big Deal about the Big Lebowski?

For years now, your Monkey has been puzzled by how popular the movie the Big Lebowski has been among film geeks and hipsters.

Having seen the movie only once (shortly after it was released in 1998), your Monkey found all this Lebowski worship to be pretty confusing.

He did not remember it as being particularly good or entertaining. In fact, the film felt like a letdown after the Cohen Brothers’ excellent film Fargo.

Your Monkey was ready to dismiss the Big Lebowski as nothing more than a sub-par Cohen Brothers effort, but it just kept creeping back into his life.

It was mentioned time and time again on the Filmspotting podcast.

It kept showing up on top 10 favorite movie lists on the internet.

And then the House of Blues in Boston announced that it would be hosting a Lebowski Fest in September. Here’s a link to that event for all you fans.

Curiosity finally got the best of your Grumpy Monkey, and he had to take another look at the film. What kind of movie could spawn an event that would draw enough people (presumably) to fill one of Boston’s larger music venues?

So your Monkey added the Big Lebowksi to his Netflix queue, and rewatched the film with an eye toward figuring out what the fuss was all about. Perhaps now that he was older and wiser and geekier, he might see what he missed the first time around.

Here’s the trailer for any of you who might not have seen it yet.

The verdict?

Still mixed. Okay, the movie does have its strong points. Jeff Bridges’ character of the Dude does have a certain charm that might have been lost on your Monkey the first time around. His cool stoner demeanor and willing to roll with whatever punches life dishes out (and there are a lot) make him fun to watch.

John Goodman is also appealing (if not maddeningly frustrating) as the amped-up Vietnam Vet Walter Sobchak. Goodman is the unstable and emotional counterpoint to the Dude’s cool and detached demeanor, and you can’t deny the way that his energy crackles on the screen, even if you don’t particularly like his character.

Goodman here is playing a character similar to the one he plays in Barton Fink. This Monkey would argue that his performance in that earlier Cohen Brothers’ film is better because it starts off small and builds to a boil. Here we pretty much have only one speed — full raging lunatic.

The story itself also offers a nice twist on the traditional “kidnapping goes bad” story. There is a point early on in the film where it threatens to become a formulaic cautionary tale about greed. How many movies have we seen where the characters try to grab the money and run, only to have everything go horribly wrong?

But the Cohen Brothers are smart enough to play with this formula and take it into a different direction before it becomes tired and predictable.

On the negative side, there are some parts of the plot that are confusing and overcomplicated. The movie gets a little too silly at some points.

And while it is entertaining to watch, it’s not exactly a must-see. Your monkey watched it in bits and pieces over the course of a week. It never once grabbed his attention and refused to let go.

Overall, though, the movie had enough going for it.

It’s fun. It has good lines. It has a good vibe.

Is it something that is worthy of such a rabid cult following ?

Maybe not.

But people could do worse.

So enjoy, Lebowski fans. Your Monkey won’t be joining in at Lebowski Fest this year.

But he doesn’t mind if you go and have a good time.


One thought on “What is the Big Deal about the Big Lebowski?

  1. The Coens are very strong writers. The plot of the movie isn’t supposed to make complete sense. It’s easy to get hung up in what’s going on and miss some of the amazing dialog happening. Many fans also say it took two or three viewings before they actually liked it.

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