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While I’ve never been a tremendous fan of the game of baseball, movies about the sport are a different matter altogether. I would count director Barry Levinson’s THE NATURAL amongst my favorite movies of all time, but there is another baseball themed film that is near and dear to my heart. Without question, BULL DURHAM ($25) is an utter joy of a movie. While baseball would seem to be the main focus of BULL DURHAM, this movie is equally about the other national pastime.

The plot of BULL DURHAM involves Crash Davis (Kevin Costner), a seasoned minor league catcher, who is nearing the end of his playing days. As the film starts, Crash finds himself traded to the Durham Bulls, where he is to impart the benefits of his experience to a young pitcher named Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh (Tim Robbins), whom has what is best described as having "a million dollar arm" and a "five cent head." Making something of this cocky young ball player proves to be a challenge for Crash, not only because Nuke is thick headed, but because of local baseball groupie Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon), who take a shine to both men. Although Annie chooses to hook up with Nuke and make him her pet project for the season, her genuine attraction and affection for Crash remains ever present.

BULL DURHAM is a very sweet and very funny romantic comedy that produces consistent laughs. Writer/director Ron Shelton’s experience playing minor league baseball gives BULL DURHAM a very genuine feel for the game, but what is surprising about the movie is how well he has written the film’s central female character. Annie Savoy is one of the best roles of Susan Sarandon’s career and my personal favorite of all of her performances. I have never found Kevin Costner’s performances to offer very much emotional depth, but he is perfectly suited to the role of Crash Davis, a man who keeps his feelings well hidden. Tim Robbins is hysterically brilliant in his portrayal of Nuke, a cocky, swaggering idiot, who is fortunate to have natural talent, along with people like Annie and Crash in his corner. The delightful supporting cast of BULL DURHAM features Trey Wilson, Robert Wuhl, William O'Leary, David Neidorf, Danny Gans, Tom Silardi, Lloyd Williams, Rick Marzan, Jenny Robertson, Carey 'Garland' Bunting and Max Patkin.

MGM Home Entertainment through 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made BULL DURHAM available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the MPEG-2 codec. As I stated during my review of the previous DVD release of BULL DURHAM, the cinematography isn’t particularly showy… and that is something that the 1080p presentation reveals in spades. BULL DURHAM was and is a modestly budgeted film, and that about all it looks like in high definition. Interiors tend to have a softer more diffuse look than the daytime exteriors. Sharpness and image detail tend to improve with stronger levels of available lighting and decrease with less lighting. Colors appear warm and offer nice saturation. Blacks are inky, and whites appear clean. Contrast is at its best under sunlight, but tends to be uninspired in lower lighting. The elements from which BULL DURHAM was transferred appear reasonably clean. Grain is ever present and becomes more noticeable as the scenes become darker. Overall, BULL DURHAM looks like film… a modestly budgeted one from 1988.

BULL DURHAM is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. When I reviewed BULL DURHAM on DVD, I commented the uninspired quality of the sound mix lead me to believe that the original un-matrixed Dolby Surround stems had been directly ported into the discrete format. Despite the lossless encoding, I would have to say ditto to this release as well. Fortunately, BULL DURHAM a fairly talky romantic comedy that doesn’t require a showy sound mix. Sound is localized to the front, while the rear channels provide a bit of ambient envelopment. The sound opens up a bit during the ballgame sequences, which benefit from some crowd noises. Music sounds pretty good, but the lossless encode can’t disguise the era in which this track originated. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced and is always completely understandable. English and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo surround soundtracks, along with a French monaural track have also been encoded onto the disc.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features. No supplemental content has been included on the Blu-ray Disc itself, but a DVD Edition of the film has been included, with all the supplements being provided there. Starting things off are two running Audio Commentaries; the first with director Ron Shelton and the second with actors Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins. The commentaries are different enough that fans will want to check out both. Shelton covers all the bases on the film’s technical aspects, as well as working with the cast, while Costner and Robbins cut loose and have a grand old time sharing memories and talking about making BULL DURHAM. Those only interested in being entertained should stick with Costner and Robbins commentary, which can be pretty darn funny. Featurettes and other programs include the following: Between The Lines: The Making Of Bull Durham, which runs a half an hour and includes new interviews with the cast and crew of the movie. The program provides a thorough look at the film’s production, as well as being somewhat fun and entertaining. Kevin Costner Profile and Sport’s Wrap are lightweight programs that run a few minutes each and were produced for the film’s theatrical release in 1988. A Theatrical Trailer, a Theatrical Teaser, bonus trailers and a Photo Gallery fill out the DVD’s supplements.

As I stated above, BULL DURHAM is an utter joy of a movie. The Blu-ray presentation is quite nice, but can’t overcome the limitations of the original production. Recommended to fans.


Bull Durham [Blu-ray] (1988)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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