Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 11/7/98
1988 (1998) - Orion (Image
review by Bill Hunt,
editor of The Digital Bits
One of a small handful of truly good sports films, made all the
more remarkable by its surprisingly engaging characters, and the
refreshingly subtle humanity of the writing. Not to mention, it's
just darned funny.
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/B
The film transfer is solid, although the print could be better, and
it's in anamorphic widescreen (a major plus). The audio is also
good, if unremarkable, in 4.0 Dolby Digital Surround. Extras are
minimal, but the new commentary track is quite satisfying.
Overall Rating: B+
An entirely worthy release from Image. Sure there could have been
more extras - it's not exactly a blow-you-away DVD. But the thing
is, this disc is just easy - easy to settle into and easy to enjoy.
And in my book, that's what it's all about.
108 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced,
single-sided, single-layered, Snapper packaging, new audio
commentary track by director Ron Shelton, cast and director
filmographies, THX certified, animated film-themed menu screens with
sound effects, scene access (21 chapters), languages: English (DD
4.0), subtitles & captions: English
All right, I may be biased - I'm a sports fan. Football is my game
of choice. But I have to confess a soft spot for baseball. There's
nothing quite like a lazy afternoon at the ballpark with your
friends - enjoying the rhythm of the game, perhaps savoring the
guilty pleasure of a truly great hotdog. And anyone who's ever been
to a minor league game, knows that it's special experience.
Minor league baseball has a unique flavor to it. It's a much more
relaxed atmosphere than you'll find at a major league game. The ball
park is usually well-worn and comfortable, like an old glove.
Characters abound, from the owner of the dive bar next to the ball
park that everyone knows, to the announcer calling the plays on
low-power AM radio, to the groupies who never miss a game. For
players at this level, baseball isn't about the big paycheck. It's
about dreams, past and future, and the love of the game. There are
rookies, hoping to make "the show", and former All-Stars
clinging desperately to the glory days.
Bull Durham captures that
atmosphere perfectly, then transcends it, to create a highly
personal character story. Kevin Costner stars as Crash Davis, a
12th-year catcher who never quite stuck in the big leagues. His
Triple-A contract has been purchased by the bush league Durham
Bulls, so he can groom a hot new prospect - a spitballer with a wild
but world-class arm, named "Nuke" LaLoosh (Tim Robbins).
Nuke's on his way up, Crash is on his way down, and along the way
are a whole host of off-beat locals, among them Annie Savoy (Susan
Sarandon), a local devotee of the game, who fancies herself as the
team's unofficial trainer.
There isn't a bad performance in the bunch here. Bull
Durham is nothing if not perfectly cast. Costner shines
as his character struggles with the knowledge that he's got plenty
of smarts, but never had quite enough talent to make it big. Nuke is
the quintessential goober, and Tim Robbins simply delights, playing
off-kilter to Costner's irritable brood (strange to see how young
Robbins looks here, particularly in that Motley Crue t-shirt). And
Sarandon somehow grounds them both, weaving her unique brand of sex,
baseball, and metaphysics.
Ron Shelton's directorial debut is well-crafted. He keeps things on
a small scale, and interesting throughout. But Shelton's real gift
lies in his screenwriting. His dialogue manages to be funny at
times, but always personal. The result is a very natural feel to
each scene, and characters that are entirely engaging. Bull
Durham is filled with great moments. There's a brief
scene on the team bus, where Nuke (being an 'artistic' type), is
strumming his guitar and singing. But he's getting all the words to
the song wrong (haven't we ALL been there), and it's getting under
Crash's skin. It's a very real, human moment, and you can't help but
In terms of production quality, this DVD is quite solid (and is THX
certified to boot). The new anamorphic widescreen transfer itself is
very good. The colors (particularly the flesh tones) and contrast
exhibited are generally excellent. Image clarity is good, and there
are few compression artifacts visible. The only problem, is that the
print itself is not of the best quality. Plenty of film grain is
visible, as are occasional scratches and bits of dust. Overall,
however, there's nothing here that distracts from the general
The audio, in 4.0 Dolby Digital Surround, is perfectly adequate, if
somewhat lacking in spaciousness and directionality. I detected very
little use of the surrounds, but the dialogue presentation is clear
and very natural.
As for extras, well there aren't many. You will find filmographies
on the director and major cast members. The animated menu screens
(both main and scene selection) are a very nice touch - I'm glad to
see this appearing on more and more of Image's DVDs. The real bonus
here, however, is the newly-recorded audio commentary track by
Shelton. This is good stuff, full of interesting insights. "Everybody
has insecurity," he says at one point. "It's what you
chose to do with that insecurity - what arrogance and ego you choose
to assert in the face of fear and insecurity..." His unique
perspective on what motivates people, and how he chooses to convey
that on film, is surprisingly honest, and makes for rewarding
Bull Durham is unique - a
sports film about individuals, that doesn't fall into the usual plot
pitfalls of 'chasing the pennant', or 'winning the big game'.
Baseball is the environment, the atmosphere - not the focus. Bull
Durham is deftly written, naturally engaging and
completely satisfying. And on DVD, it's an entirely enjoyable