Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bull Durham (1988, Ron Shelton)

I'll admit that I've always had a soft spot for sports movies. They are usually entertaining despite having typical sports style cliches, and many times they are similar, but I keep tuning in anyways. However, the good and great ones are more about the characters, why they play the game, and about how sports can so easily be connected to life and the mysteries of the universe. At least that's how Ron Shelton's baseball movie classic Bull Durham looks at America's past time. This a comedy that also features some well created drama, especially towards the end, and has well rounded, likable characters and some of the most well written dialogue I've seen in well, any movie, period.

The great cast does indeed help, as it features Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and Kevin Costner in an interesting love triangle. Most of the film's laughs come from amazing monologues, such as Costner's ad libbed "I believe in...." speech that brought a smile to my face, or Sarandon's Annie's voice over stating one of her unique and straightfoward quotations and opinions about life, the game, and everything else. I'm sure that Robbins' Nuke reminds some of us of certain guys who have played the game in the past, or who are in the Major Leagues now, and even though Costner was actually not much older than Robbins he embodies the world wary, ancient feeling Crash Davis particularly well.

What's also remarkable about this movie is how Shelton brings out the humor in your seemingly average, typical baseball scenes. One of my favorite moments is when Crash, Nuke, and practically the entire team is at the mound, and Crash tells the assistant manager everything going on, closing with "We are dealing with a lot of shit." Sure there are some outrageous moments, but they only add to the film, not detract from it. And hey you can't go wrong with a film that has a last act that, even though it may feel out of place in a film as silly at times as this one, is really quite moving. That last scene is rather simple, yet profound, and I wouldn't have Shelton end things any other way.

To me, Field of Dreams is still the better movie, but I think over time this one may surpass it. For now I'd say that Costner's best role is in Open Range, but Crash and his funny, charasmatic and awesome role as Roy in Shelton's Tin Cup stand as my personal favorites. I'm just glad that they never made a sequel, although you could almost consider the also rather funny but lesser Major League, which came out a year later, as this movie's big league counterpart. 95

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