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MGM Studios DVD presents
Bull Durham: SE (1988)

"Your shower shoes have fungus on them. You'll never make it to the bigs with fungus on your shower shoes. Think classy, you'll be classy. If you win 20 in the show, you can let the fungus grow back and the press will think you're colorful. Until you win 20 in the show, however, it means you are a slob."
- Crash Davis (Kevin Costner)

Review By: Brian Calhoun  
Published: March 27, 2002

Stars: Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins
Other Stars: Trey Wilson, Robert Wuhl
Director: Ron Shelton

Manufacturer: Laser Pacific Media Corporation
MPAA Rating: R for language and sexual situations
Run Time: 01h:47m:41s
Release Date: April 02, 2002
UPC: 027616874801
Genre: romantic comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ AA-B- A-

DVD Review

I must admit, I am not a big admirer of baseball. Any time I watch a game on television, I find the snail-like pace enough to lull me into a deep slumber. Baseball movies are often able to overcome a lot of this boredom by focusing on the spirit of the game in a way no real-life televised game can. Yet, these films are often bogged down with artificial sentiment and a glaring lack of character development. Bull Durham is a rare gem that not only captures the essence of baseball, but also rises above its typical sports film status by concentrating on the human behavior of its unusually deep characters, both on and off the field.Writer/director Ron Shelton has created Bull Durham from his own life experiences as a minor league ballplayer. It would be easy to dismiss this as self-indulgent, yet it is just this approach that creates a film so heartfelt and enriching that passion exudes from every frame. Furthermore, the atypical focus on a minor league team brings an up close and personal hometown allure, rather than the icy, stale feeling often portrayed at the major league level. Shelton is incredibly meticulous about the art of the game, but he never forgets to show the humorous side of the sport. Every comical moment is truly inspired, without ever feeling trite or contrived. The long bus trips, the humorous conversations on the mound (they are not always about baseball!), the arguments with the umpires, and even the players' eccentric rituals are handled in a way that honor the sport while simultaneously amusing the audience. Shelton has lived every moment of this and wisely tells his story from the players' perspective, rather than the skewed viewpoint of a fan.Ironically, the detailed attention to baseball only serves as the foundation for a much larger story involving love and other interpersonal relationships. Shelton proves himself a master craftsman in these areas as well; Bull Durham features some of the most wonderfully instinctive relationships ever caught on film. The characters speak to one another with words and body language that are tender and truly sincere. Natural sentiments and realistic locations replace the artificial emotions and phony sunsets often seen in romance pictures. In addition to the sports humor, some of the film's most hilarious moments are unexpectedly unfurled within the core of the love story.Bull Durham is a remarkable combination of love, baseball, humor and sex (not necessarily in that order), but the film never loses sight of its soul, which is rooted in marvelously developed characters. From the main characters to each supporting role, every character breathes a distinct and unique personality. By the time the film ended, I felt I knew more than a few things about their inner nature. Tim Robbins turns in a picture-perfect performance as the immature yet stalwart pitcher, Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh. It would have been incredibly easy to portray Nuke as cocky and obnoxious, but Robbins brings a loveable innocence to his character that very few actors could have successfully executed. Kevin Costner is at the top of his game as Crash Davis, the veteran catcher who knows he is getting too old for the sport, yet cannot turn his back on what he knows and loves. He portrays this multi-layered character with a genuine passion that proves what a capable and talented actor he is. I certainly have not forgotten Susan Sarandon as Annie Savoy. Speaking with a literate profundity that is atypical vernacular for the average baseball fan, Annie is not only the film's most compelling character, but also is the heart and soul of Bull Durham. Sarandon tackles this challenging role as if it were second nature. It is so refreshing and unique to see this story from a woman's perspective; what's more, a woman with so much depth and prominence in a film that covers mostly male-dominated subject matter is a breath of fresh air.Bull Durham was an extraordinary film when it debuted 14 years ago, and it still continues to be ahead of its time. The fact that Ron Shelton has created a baseball film that this skeptical reviewer finds so engaging, so entertaining, and so loveable is an astonishing achievement. Shelton's absolute dedication and devotion not only to the sport, but also to the art of filmmaking has bowled me over and even heightened my appreciation of the game. I consider this timeless classic one of the best sports films ever made.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicyesno


Image Transfer Review: Bull Durham is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and it has never looked better. I feared the worst when I saw the squiggly and jagged appearance of the main menu screen, but my fears were immediately put to rest. The anamorphically-enhanced picture is surprisingly smooth for a film of this age. Even more surprising is the lack of film artifacts, which proves that many hours of work went into restoring the original elements. On the negative side, the image appears somewhat soft at times, but I never found this to be distracting. Colors and hues often appear subdued, and fleshtones sometimes exhibit an annoying reddish tone, yet in the ballpark scenes the colors explode with vibrancy and practically leap off the screen. This is a highly commendable transfer for an older film. I am sure fans will be delighted.A pan & scan version is also offered on side B. In addition to desecrating the film's original aspect ratio, artifacts are much more apparent, and the overall image is nowhere near as pleasing as the anamorphic widescreen transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoPortugueseyes
DS 2.0French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The new 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is quite restrained, and ultimately a disappointment. Overall, it sounds like the original 2.0 mix with slightly more expansion. While fidelity is clean and clear, dialogue often sounds distorted and wanting in realism. Stereo separation among the front soundstage is wide and wholly realistic, and panning always sounds smooth and natural. Surround presence is essentially vacant, with the exception of minor crowd noise during a few game scenes and a flowing musical presence at one point. Bull Durham fans will not be disappointed, but I expected a little more envelopment and creativity, especially for the games.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Rocky, When Harry Met Sally..., The Terminator: SE
1 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by director Ron Shelton, Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:04m:38s

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: MGM has gone to great lengths to respect Bull Durham by including an extensive team of extras that are not only fun and entertaining, but incredibly insightful as well. The presentation of this special edition is particularly pleasing, right down to its packaging. The typical Amaray case is housed inside a slick slipcase cover complete with baseball stitching. Upon startup, the viewer is greeted to inventive main menu screens, highlighted by witty lines of dialogue from the film. Each line is followed up with a cleverly edited montage of clips that expand upon the dialogue. While the lighter special features seem weak and extraneous, these errors are counterbalanced with two super commentaries and a wonderful documentary.Ron Shelton's feature-length commentary is fascinating. He is verbose, yet never self-indulgent or dull, and clearly aware of how to dictate a professional and entertaining commentary. Speaking not only as a seasoned veteran ball player, but a veteran filmmaker as well, Shelton delivers incredible insight into his own experiences in the minor leagues, the process of filmmaking, and the meticulous nature in which he wrote and directed this great film. If it is not obvious after watching the feature, this commentary clears up any doubts that Shelton was the perfect choice for writing and directing Bull Durham. Even more impressive is his acknowledgement of mistakes made in filming, which he humbly points. This genuine commentary ranks within my top three favorite tracks of all time.While the Shelton commentary could almost be considered "filmmaking 101," the Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins commentary could be considered the "party" track. Robbins and Costner have a fun discussion with one another, often just sitting back and laughing at the film's many jokes as if they were recording a "laugh-track" for Bull Durham. While this may seem a bit silly and awkward, it is actually quite enjoyable to hear these two seasoned actors reminisce and sing notes of praise for writer/director Shelton. After listening to the first commentary's endless information, this one ties in nicely with the comedic nature of the film itself.Next at bat is the wonderful documentary, Between the Lines—The Making of Bull Durham. While the fact that it is presented in anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen is praise-worthy enough, this interview session with Shelton, the actors, and real-life Durham Bulls players proves to be much more entertaining and informative than many of the drab documentaries usually seen on special edition DVDs. All of the cast and crew members involved are very energetic, and many interesting tidbits are revealed.It is after these three top-notch special features that the extras portion of the disc goes sour. The Kevin Costner Profile is simply a two-minute blurb on the actor and features him discussing what he believes made Bull Durham superior over other sports films. The inclusion of this short featurette seems like nothing more than a way to entice potential buyers into thinking they are getting more bang for their buck, as anything found here could have been included in the documentary.Sports Wrap is nothing more than an extended theatrical trailer, interspersed with a few short interviews.The anamorphic widescreen theatrical trailer mainly focuses on the romantic aspect of Bull Durham, while the nonanamorphic widescreen teaser shows more of the comedic side. Both serve their purpose, but it would have been nice to see one trailer that presents all of the many aspects of this far-reaching film. Also included in this section are full-frame trailers for Rocky, When Harry Met Sally... and The Terminator: SE.Rounding third and taking us home is a photo gallery that consists of behind-the-scenes photos of the cast and crew, as well as a few promotional posters. I have never enjoyed or found photo sections necessary, and this is no exception.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

For his directorial debut, Ron Shelton not only proved that he loves the sport of baseball, but the art of cinema as well. It would be easy to try and sum up his masterpiece by using profound and witty remarks, but the bottom line is that Bull Durham is sensational entertainment that left me with a smile on my face. In honoring this fine film, MGM has stepped up to the plate and hit a grand slam with a special edition that is sure to delight both baseball and cinema fanatics.

 


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