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Ron Shelton
Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins
Ron Shelton

A fan who has an affair with one minor league baseball player each season meets an up-and-coming pitcher and the experienced catcher assigned to him.
Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 108 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 7/10/2018

• Audio Commentary With Director Ron Shelton
• Audio Commentary Actors Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins
• “Between the Lines” Documentary
• “Going to the Show” Featurette
• “Greatest Show on Dirt” Featurette
• 1991 Today Excerpt
• 1993 NBC Nightly News Excerpt
• Trailer
• Booklet


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Bull Durham: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1988)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 19, 2018)

Although baseball movies generally don’t move a lot of tickets, the genre enjoyed a minor resurgence during the late 1980s. Within a year of each other in 1988-89, Bull Durham, Major League, and Field Of Dreams all came out and all did respectable to good business.

Maybe the baseball movie actually did have some earning potential after all. The problem with this inference is that of those three films, only Major League truly qualifies as a true “baseball movie”.

By that I mean that it became the only one of those efforts that really concentrated on the sport. Major League presented the subject in a fairly farcical manner, but it still focused on the game itself.

For the other two films, baseball itself played an integral role but I don't think either movie used the sport as a focal point. Field of Dreams held the weakest link to baseball of the bunch, as it dealt more with relationships, especially in the way sports helps connect fathers and sons.

Bull Durham also really provides a relationship movie. For the most part, it concerns a classic love triangle, with all the struggles and pitfalls that come along the way.

Young pitching phenom Ebby Calvin LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) shows terrific promise but lacks control – in a variety of ways. To aid in his development, veteran catcher Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) gets sent to the minor league Durham Bulls to become LaLoosh’s mentor.

This leads to a contentious relationship, one that intensifies due to the presence of Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon). Every season, she chooses to romance one Bull and act as his muse. Annie selects LaLoosh, but her connection to Davis causes complications.

As noted earlier, I don’t really see Durham as a sports movie. Sure, the world of minor league baseball acts as an integral part of the backdrop, but in much the same way An Officer and a Gentleman framed its picture with the reality of the modern-day military. No one thinks of An Officer and a Gentleman as a film about the military, so why should Bull Durham get classified as a baseball movie?

I think that's largely why Bull Durham worked at the box office, as it’s a “sports movie” in which the baseball aspects seemed incidental to the relationships between the three leads. It also helped that the movie was funny, charming, and honest, and that it was executed with a great deal of class.

To me, the foremost reason why the film fares as well as it does concerns the cast. Clearly a character-driven film such as this lives and dies with its actors, and from top to bottom, we get excellent performances.

As Crash, Kevin Costner offers perhaps his most relaxed and self-assured performance. Watch Bull Durham and you can recall what made him a star in the first place.

Susan Sarandon does the miraculous with her role as Annie Savoy. With Costner's Crash Davis, there was some chance that he could come across as mean-spirited or harsh, but the script minimized these possibilities to a fair degree.

However, as written, Annie not only could have been but probably should have been insufferable. With all her pretensions and self-importance, Annie seems completely unappealing in the abstract.

However, such are Sarandon's gifts that she can take this genuinely obnoxious character and make her fairly charming and ingratiating. To be frank, I'm still not wild about Annie, but I certainly respect Sarandon's ability to avoid what could have been.

Tim Robbins' character of simple-minded pitching phenom LaLoosh seems to be the easiest to portray of the three leads, if just because he's in the film the least and because the character is supposed to be more "one-note" and basic than the others. Nonetheless, Robbins infuses his performance with a genuineness that easily could have gotten lost along the way.

Bull Durham remains one of the best baseball-related flicks ever due to the vivid characters and the crisp and realistic portrayal of life in the minor leagues. It’s an entertaining and witty look at relationships that has aged very well and offers a consistently delightful piece of work.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B+

Bull Durham appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a largely positive image.

Sharpness seemed pretty good. Given the movie’s original photography, some mild softness materialized – usually during interiors – but the movie mostly came across with nice clarity and delineation.

No issues with jaggies or moiré effects interfered. The transfer lacked edge haloes, and with a good layer of grain, I didn’t suspect digital noise reduction. Print flaws also failed to mar the presentation.

Colors showed a mild move toward a blue-green impression, but this didn’t seem dominant. Overall, the hues favored a semi-natural feel, and they displayed pretty solid clarity.

Black levels also looked reasonably deep and dense, while shadow detail seemed appealing, with nice delineation in low-light shots. The transfer usually appeared to offer a fairly accurate replication of the source.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, the soundfield mostly offered a forward bias, where it provided generally solid stereo imaging. Music showed acceptable spread and delineation, while effects also created a reasonably positive sense of atmosphere in the front. Most of those elements remained environmental, such as crowd noise at the ballpark or chatter in clubs.

Surround usage appeared minor. The rear speakers provided a slight amount of reinforcement for music and effects, but they never offered much information. Overall, the mix stayed focused on the front and rarely used the surrounds.

Audio quality appeared decent. Speech remained consistently intelligible, and the lines felt fairly natural.

Effects came across as acceptably accurate and clean. Music also sounded clear and distinct as a whole. Nothing here impressed, but the audio was fine for its era and the movie’s ambitions.

Note that the disc also included the film’s original DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack. Don’t expect real differences between it and the 5.1 mix, however.

Both versions offered the same sort of limited soundscape, and quality remained very similar. I’m glad the disc came with the theatrical audio, but it sure sounded a lot like the 5.1 remix.

How did the Criterion version compare to the 2010 Blu-ray of Bull Durham? Audio remained similar, as both discs seemed to offer virtually the same DTS-HD MA 5.1 mixes.

Visuals became a different story, though. On the positive side, the Criterion disc showed superior delineation and it eliminated the prior disc’s smattering of print flaws.

On the other hand, the Criterion disc’s palette turned into a point of potential controversy. I heard rumors that the 2018 image displayed a moderate teal tint that didn’t show up on the prior disc, and now that I’ve seen it, I have to agree.

This didn’t seem overwhelming, so don’t expect Bull Durham to suddenly look like a Michael Bay movie. However, I definitely noted a push toward the green side of the street that the older Blu-ray lacked.

Take the scene in which Annie invites Crash and Nuke back to her house. While the prior disc showed natural colors – with a clear white tone in the home’s paint – the Criterion release pushed these elements a bit toward teal. Even more notably, when the Bulls get to their motel on their road trip, the scene’s whites suddenly turn blue-green.

Honestly, the palette can feel confusing, as much of it looked fine. For instance, during the scene when Nuke intentionally hit the mascot, the blues “felt blue” and didn’t show notable influence of green.

But the colors did vary. Was this an overwhelming change? No. Is it possible that the Criterion disc better represents the original photography? Sure.

But I suspect the prior Blu-ray came with more accurate colors. They simply felt more natural and made more sense within the movie’s aims and the photography of the late 80s.

While I prefer the colors of the old Blu-ray, the Criterion disc offered enough of an improvement elsewhere to become the preferred version. The apparent “teal push” disappointed me but it stayed mild enough that it didn’t become a notable issue for me.

The Criterion set mixes old and new extras, and we find two audio commentaries from prior releases. The first comes from writer/director Ron Shelton, who taped this running, screen-specific piece back in 1998 for the movie’s original DVD.

Shelton offers a consistently compelling discussion of the film that doesn’t suffer from many empty spaces. He covers lots of different information, from the challenges that faced a first time director to changes from script to screen to working with the cast to deleted scenes to many other facets of the production.

At times, Shelton comes across as somewhat arrogant and full of himself, but those quibbles remain minor. As a whole, I find this to be a very good track.

Created for the 2002 Special Edition DVD, the second audio commentary comes from actors Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins, both of whom sit together for this running, screen-specific track. I looked forward to this piece, as we don’t often find two major stars placed together for a session.

However, the track turns out to be a major disappointment. During much of the commentary, neither participant speaks, so Costner’s giggles make up a lot of the piece. When they do talk, Costner dominates, and we mainly hear how much they like the film and how great everyone was, with a particular emphasis on Shelton.

Along the way, a few decent tidbits and funny moments emerge, but not many. This becomes a frustrating and generally boring commentary.

Between the Lines runs 29 minutes, 18 seconds as it provides a 2002 retrospective look at the film. We hear from director Shelton, actors Costner, Sarandon, Robbins, Robert Wuhl, and Jenny Robertson, producer Thom Mount, former Bulls owner Miles Wolff, former Bulls players Theron Todd and Wes Currin, and former stadium manager and groundskeeper Bill Miller.

As a whole, “Lines” delivers a decent program but it doesn’t provide anything terribly interesting. It offers a general overview of the film’s origins and the production, and the various participants give us reasonably worthwhile comments about their experiences.

To be sure, the program goes by smoothly and seems acceptably entertaining. However, it also appears fairly fluffy and it lacks depth. It offers a pleasant little ride that includes enough good tidbits to merit a viewing, but don’t expect more than that.

New to this set, Going to the Show provides an 18-minute, 55-second chat between Shelton and critic Michael Sragow. They discuss sports films in general and Shelton’s works in specific. This turns into a pretty solid view of the genre.

From 2008, The Greatest Show on Dirt takes up 19 minutes, 23 seconds and includes comments from Shelton, author Ron Williams, broadcaster Charley Steiner, baseball coach Steve Smith, players Ken Huckaby, Justin Knoedler and Lance Niekro, and actors Jenny Robertson and William O’Leary. They discuss aspects of the film’s creation as well as offer an appreciation for it. Despite more than a little happy talk, the piece gives us a generally enjoyable reel.

Two archival clips appear, the first of which provides a 1991 Today Show excerpt with “Clown Prince” Max Patkin. In the three-minute, 49-second snippet, we get a chat between Patkin and Joe Garagiola. It’s unremarkable but enjoyable.

From 1993, an NBC Nightly News segment lasts two minutes, 39 seconds. It gives us a look at Durham Athletic Park – the location used for the film – during the stadium’s final season. It brings us a passable view of the field.

In addition to the movie’s trailer, we get a booklet. It features parts of a 1989 essay by baseball writer Roger Angell as well as some new thoughts from Angell. As usual, the booklet adds to the package.

I’ve always really liked Bull Durham as a film, as it uses baseball as a believable backdrop for romantic comedy. Truly, this is the rare film of that genre that will appeal to male and female audiences. The Blu-ray offers generally good picture and audio along with a reasonably informative set of supplements. This becomes the best version of Bull Durham to date.

To rate this film, visit the Special Edition review of BULL DURHAM

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