The Big Lebowski appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The film with a decent but unexceptional transfer.
Sharpness tended to be adequate. Much of the film displayed acceptable definition, but the image was never especially crisp, and some mild edge haloes exacerbated the lack of great clarity. The movie could’ve been softer, but it also could – and probably should – have appeared more distinctive. No issues with jaggies or moiré effects materialized, and print flaws were minor; I saw a couple of small specks and that was it.
Colors tended to be decent but not better. The tones offered reasonable clarity much of the time but didn’t display a great deal of vivacity. Blacks were fairly deep and tight, and shadows showed good clarity. Though I didn’t think the image impressed, it had enough going for it to earn a “C+“.
As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it was perfectly fine. The soundfield didn’t have a lot to offer much of the time, though it broadened at times. Mostly these instances occurred during fantasy scenes; the bowling shots and some others delivered decent to good atmosphere as well. None of this ever impressed, but it worked well enough for the material.
Audio quality appeared good. Speech seemed natural and concise, without edginess or other issues. Music sounded clear and peppy, and effects delivered nice accuracy and fullness. This resulted in a perfectly competent track for an ambitious comedy.
The disc comes with a broad array of extras. We open with an interactive component called U-Control. This splits into three categories: “The Music of The Big Lebowski”, “Mark It, Dude” and “Scene Companion”. The first two lack much value. “Music” simply provides text credits for the songs we hear in the movie, while “Mark It” creates a silly counter; it keeps track of various dialogue elements in the flick. It’s pretty pointless.
The “Scene Companion” proves to be the most substantial extra, as it delivers picture-in-picture material. This mixes cast/crew bios, quotes from writer/director Joel Coen, writer/producer Ethan Coen, actors Steve Buscemi, John Goodman, Jeff Bridges, and Julianne Moore. We also get some soundbites from Buscemi, Goodman, Moore, Bridges and actor John Turturro. They discuss aspects of the film, working with the Coens, and its reception.
Many prior Universal picture-in-picture features have been good, but this one is a relative dud. We tend to find pretty minor thoughts about the movie and its creators, and we go long periods without info from the “Scene Companion”. To make it worse, you can’t run all three of the “U Control” components at the same time. Sure, the system shows you which is currently active and you can switch to it manually, but you can’t view all the pieces automatically. All of this makes “U Control” less valuable and user-friendly than I’d like.
(Note that you’ll find virtually all of this video content elsewhere on the disc via its featurettes. That makes “Scene Companion” even more expendable; you can get the same info elsewhere in a more efficient manner.)
Another feature that accompanies the film, Worthy Adversaries: What’s My Line Trivia tests your knowledge of Lebowski. Occasionally, at least. It throws up questions every once in a while, but not with much frequency. Honestly, I bailed on “Adversaries” when the movie hit the scene in which the Dude learns of Bunny’s kidnapping; that was more than 20 minutes into the flick and I’d only seen one question to that point. If you’re really patient, you might get something out of “Adversaries” – and maybe the items come rapid-fire later – but I got too bored with this feature to stick with it.
For something irreverent, we get An Exclusive Introduction. Similar to an item found on the Blood Simple Blu-ray, we get comments from “Mortimer Young” of “Forever Young Film Restoration”. During the four-minute, 40-second clip, he delivers some bogus “facts” about Lebowski. I wasn’t wild about the concept on Simple, and the joke doesn’t get funnier here.
A mix of programs follows. The Dude’s Life runs 10 minutes, eight seconds and delivers notes from Bridges, Buscemi, Moore, Goodman, Joel and Ethan Coen, and Turturro. They discuss the movie’s characters and performances. It’s a pretty introspective view of things.
A retrospective arrives via The Dude Abides: The Big Lebowski 10 Years Later. It fills 10 minutes, 27 seconds with info from Turturro, Bridges, Buscemi, Moore, and Goodman. They talk a bit about working with the Coens as well as the movie’s reception and legacy. This is a decent piece but a little on the insubstantial side.
Next comes the 24-minute, 35-second Making of The Big Lebowski. Created back in the 90s, it involves material with Joel and Ethan Coen, Bridges, and Goodman. “Making” looks at the movie’s roots, story and characters, cast and performances, and a few production elements. Though clearly intended to promote the film, the featurette becomes the most informative piece to date, largely because we hear much more from the Coens here than we do elsewhere. “Making” is much better than expected.
For a look at the movie’s enduring legacy, we go toThe Lebowski Fest: An Achiever’s Story. A 13-minute, 53-second excerpt from a documentary called The Achievers: The Story of the Lebowski Fans, we learn about the first Lebowski Fest and how the notion developed. I don’t get the Lebowski cult, but it’s interesting to hear about this ground roots following and celebration.
The featurettes end with the four-minute, 20-second Flying Carpets and Bowling Pin Dreams: The Dream Sequences of the Dude. It offers material from Buscemi, Goodman, Turturro, Joel and Ethan Coen, Moore, and Bridges. The piece is too short to deliver a lot of details, but it throws out a few fun facts about these specific scenes.
Afte this, we get an Interactive Map. This lets you learn a little more about 14 different locations featured in the film; click on any of them and you’ll find short clips with video and film footage plus narration and a few soundbites; we hear from Goodman and Bridges. These are moderately interesting but the format becomes a chore. The snippets last between 29 seconds and 49 seconds, and the “Map” lacks a “Play All” option, so we constantly have to return to the menu. The “Map” contains some enjoyable material but the awkward interface makes it slow-going.
Collections of stills finish the set. Each provides filmed compilations of shots; we get a Jeff Bridges Photo Book (17:30) and a Photo Gallery (3:25). Both offer pictures that Bridges shot on the set, but the format differs. In the first, Bridges shows us the pics and describes them, while the second lets us view the images in a more traditional stillframe manner, albeit one that also includes captions from Bridges. That makes the second one occasionally redundant, but both are enjoyable.
Arguably the biggest cult film to emerge in the 1990s, The Big Lebowski continues to attract a following 14 years after its release. The movie creates an unusual, wacked-out film noir. The Blu-ray delivers erratic but generally good picture, audio and supplements. While this doesn’t become a definitive edition of the film, it should please fans.