Bull Durham review by Tom Blain
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Bull Durham isnt one of those cheesy sports flicks that turns bloopers into highpoints (for this humor, see Waterboy). Bull Durham has its share of physical humor, but it is more concerned with the zen of baseball. The team being followed is a minor league team, distanced from the money, fame, and glamour of major league baseball. The players in Durham are playing mostly because of their love for the sport. The men and women in the stands are watching not because they are fans of the players but because they are fans of the sport. Above all else, this is what makes it work.
The team in focus is the Durham Bulls (turn the title around). Durham is great example of smalltown south. The homes and people are filled with laid back personality, a relaxing distance from big city rigors. Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) is an aging veteran catcher entering the autumn of his career. His smarts behind the plate, and his bat at the plate have been enough to keep him around the bush leagues for years, but his lack of talent only got him a 21-day sniff in the big leagues. Davis was brought to the Durham Bulls to polish up a rough, young catcher named Nuke Laloosh (Tim Robbins). Unlike Davis, Nuke was blessed with enough talent make it to the show, the only problem is he lacks the maturity and wit to survive.
As if jealousy over talent werent enough to drive the two apart, enter the firey red-head. Annie (Susan Sarandon) is an English professor and self-proclaimed baseball philosopher. As kids collect baseball cards, she collects baseball players. That includes teaching them by unconventional means the secrets to pitching a good breaking ball and of course bedding down with them. Her project this season is either Laloosh or the aging Davis.
All three actors are at their best in this movie. Costner is often maligned for being a poor actor and even a poorer director (for examples, see The Postman, and Waterworld), but in Bull Durham you get the feeling that he is a real ball player playing in sticks. He carries a batters presence at the plate and talks baseball jargon with the best of em. He even handles himself well in most speaking rolls off the field although I noticed a few times he delivers lines like a cardboard cutout; whether it was his intention or not. Sarandon plays her standard sexually charged Southern Belle. She spouts off lines of poetry as if they were all written with Americas pastime in mind. Her eventual husband/ lover/ Tim Robbins turns in a great baffoonish performance. He transforms himself from a total goof with a great arm into a controlled goof and a great pitcher. I think one of the best parts of the movie is how Laloosh matures only as far as we would expect him to. He never becomes completely refined, and he is still deep down an idiot.
Bull Durham shied away from the evils of high priced players and egos and revealed the purity of baseball. The players carry there own bags, ride in old buses, drive crappy cars, and play in front of crowds of hundreds. What they all share is a love the game. Many of them dream of getting to the big leagues, but few believe they will, and even fewer will. There is a certain charm to the minors that comes out in Bull Durham, and that charm is reflected in the charm of the characters and actors involved. This movie is a must for all baseball fans, and should be viewed by even the most casual fan.
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