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BULL DURHAM
Special Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Trey Wilson, Robert Wuhl
Director: Ron Shelton
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround, Portuguese Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1, Standard 1.33:1
Studio: MGM
Features: See Review
Length: 108 Minutes
Release Date: April 2, 2002

“The sucker teed off on that like he knew I was gonna throw a fastball.”

“He did know.”

“How?”

“I told him.”

Film ***1/2

Bull Durham was a most successful case of a good material made by the right people. It was written and directed by Ron Shelton, a former major league ball player, who has since been responsible for some of the most important and delightful films about sports, including White Men Can’t Jump and Tin Cup. Starring at the helm is Kevin Costner, who at the time was on the rise as one of Hollywood’s hot tickets. Costner and the sport of baseball go hand and hand beautifully, as also seen in Field of Dreams and For Love of the Game. These two talents have blended together to make a sports movie that really knows what it’s talking about.

The movie takes place in Durham, North Carolina, and is set in the minor leagues, with the Durham Bulls having a so-so season. Each player seems to have a flaw or two, except new catcher Crash Davis (Costner), a veteran of the minors, who seems to get it all right. The Bulls have an imperfect pitching talent in Nuke Laloosh (Tim Robbins), whose fastball is a winner, but whose sense of control and maturity simply isn’t there. At the romantic heart of the movie is Susan Sarandon, whose character of Annie Savoy is quite an original one. She believes in the religion of baseball, and each season selects one ball player each season to titillate. This season sparks problem, because Annie seems to be caught between two players; Crash and Nuke.

Crash, not believing in the same philosophy as Annie, refuses her advances, but Nuke is very eager to sleep with any attractive woman. Annie’s selection of her one player depends solely on who are the top prospects of the season, which Crash and Nuke definitely fit into. Nuke begins an affair with her, but when he begins an impressive streak, thanks to his teachings from Crash, he begins to stray away from Annie, leaving her no other options but to want another man, with Crash as the likely candidate.

The movie is knowledgeable of both love and baseball, but the best scenes in Bull Durham take place on the field. Crash and Nuke don’t get along very well, but on the field Crash as catcher is the boss indeed, and watching Costner and Robbins interact and at times quarreling on the pitcher’s mound is both edgy and hysterical. One memorable funny moment comes when Crash instructs Nuke to throw the ball at the team mascot. The most howling moment, however, is when Crash gets into it with an umpire after a bad call.

Shelton and Costner proved to be a winning combination for both this film, and their superb golf comedy Tin Cup, and I’d like to see them team up for another movie in the future. Costner is at his sharpest here, portraying Crash as a pure bad ass of a player who has a touch of unexpected romance in him. Sarandon is superb and astonishingly sexy in one of her most memorable roles to date, and Tim Robbins provides a wonderful breakout performance as the out of control Nuke.

In the realm of sports movies, Bull Durham hits a definite home run.

Video ***

This is a most acceptable transfer from MGM. Previously released by Image in a disc I never saw, MGM provides their usual top quality. Picture image is clear and sharp, with the best moments of the presentation belonging to the baseball sequences. There are some moments of image softness here and there, but overall this is a mostly impressive picture quality presentation.

Audio **

Mostly a dialogue driven film, Bull Durham is provided with an adequately done 5.1 audio track. The best parts, as with the picture, belong to the baseball scenes, which contain nice pick up of crowd noise and ball hitting, but when off the field, the audio does simply what it can by delivering dialogue crisply with not much other additional pickup. I also detected a couple instances of audio bleeding.

Features ****

A nicely packaged Special Edition release, starting off with the outstanding looking baseball slip cover. Featured are two commentary tracks; one with Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins, and one with Ron Shelton, three documentaries; a photo gallery, a theatrical and teaser trailer for this film and three other MGM Special Edition releases; Rocky, When Harry Met Sally,  and The Terminator.

Summary:

The glory days of minor league baseball are wonderfully captured in Bull Durham, as well as the ups and downs of the love on the side. Credit to director Ron Shelton and star Kevin Costner for crafting a winning home run hit of a movie.