Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: John Travolta,
Debra Winger, Scott Glenn, Madolyn Smith, Barry Corbin
Director: James Bridges
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 134 Minutes
Release Date: October 8, 2002
a real cowboy?”
on what you think a real cowboy is.”
Following the heels of his critical and box office success
with Saturday Night Fever and Grease,
John Travolta once again showcased his unbeatable dose of talent in Urban
Cowboy, a movie that gave the actor another opportunity to display his
ability to dance like no one else could, this time to the beat of a different
kind of music, that of country. For me, the movie is a wonderful character piece
and love story, and one of the best to come out of its time period. It adds up
to a memorable mixture of love, mechanical bull riding, and some good old
down-home music to boot.
Travolta plays Bud Davis, who at the beginning of the movie
moves in with his aunt and uncle, hoping to find some easy work in Houston. His
uncle provides him with a refinery job. By night, Bud finds an easy place to fit
in at Gilley's, the local country and western bar. It is there that he
discovers two life changing things; a talent for riding the mechanical bull, and
a pretty girl named Sissy (Debra Winger), whom Bud falls for almost on the spot.
Sooner than expected, the two are married and living together in a trailer.
Soon enough, Bud encounters a big time thorn in his side, a
suspicious individual named Wes (Scott Glenn). Aside from being his primary
opponent on the mechanical bull, Wes gets into numerous brawls with Bud, and
threatens to steal Sissy away from him forever when the two are going through a
minor relationship setback. While Sissy engages in a fling with Wes, Bud finds
himself wooed by a pretty rich girl Pam (Madolyn Smith), but it's pretty clear
that neither Bud or Sissy are happy apart, and it's Bud who approaches Sissy
in a heartfelt speech in the movie's climax that is absolutely winning.
Growing up in the south, it's kind of ironic to note that
I've never been a fan of country music, and yet Urban Cowboy is a movie filled left and right with country songs,
and I had no problem adjusting to the sound and beat of it. It's hard not to
get swept up by Johnny Lee's memorable song “Looking for Love (In all the
Wrong Places)”. Speaking of which, numerous musicians make appearances in the
movie, mainly as performing acts at Gilley's, including Johnny Lee, The
Charlie Daniels Band, and Bonnie Raitt. Like Grease
and Saturday Night Fever, the
soundtrack to Urban Cowboy has
remained strong over the years, still popping up on shelves in music stores, as
I've noticed at least.
This movie may test one's sappy side, as it is a love story at heart, but the charisma of John Travolta helps in making Urban Cowboy one of the star's best entries in his early days.
To be honest, this is a lot better than I expected it to be. Paramount is hard to predict when transferring movies from this era. Luckily, the transfers on the recent releases for Grease and Saturday Night Fever have been rare cases of stunning presentations, and the video job on Urban Cowboy is yet another surprise. This is my first time experiencing the movie in widescreen, and the anamorphic quality is bright and shining most of the way. Some of the sequences in the nightclub suffer a bit through softness, but these instances are few and far between, and they certainly do not distract. A much glorious presentation, indeed.
After watching this disc, I can see why Paramount was so eager to label the new audio sound on the front of this package. Music is the driving force behind Urban Cowboy, and all of the honky-tonk sounds are brought to life in this extremely well conceived 5.1 audio track. All of the scenes set in Gilley's deliver stunning dynamic range, blending the music and crowd noise together seamlessly. Dialogue is heard in pure clarity, as well, making this an easily terrific listening experience.
This disc includes some archived rehearsal footage, as well as outtakes, of various dance and bull riding sequences with John Travolta and Debra Winger.