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Review: The Dude definitely abides on 4K

Posted Monday, November 5, 2018 at 4:53 PM Central
Last updated Monday, November 5, 2018 at 4:53 PM Central

by John Couture

As the digital landscape continues to expand, one fun aspect of this industry is dying a slow death, the limited edition collector's set. Whether it was the snowglobe included with Fargo, the briefcase packaging for Inception or the Nakatomi Plaza edition of Die Hard, physical media was known for their fun and ingenious marketing ploys (gimmicks) that would suck us in to buy our favorite film again and again.

I'm pretty sure that I've bought Clerks no less than ten times between the different formats and versions. There just isn't anything cool that compares in the digital space. What's the fun in printing out a picture of your digital copy to display next to your Fight Club soap?

As with the aforementioned Fargo snowglobes, the Coen brothers have been ardent supporters of passing along a bit of Hollywood's magic to their fans. They may have just outdone all of their previous efforts with the recently released 20th Anniversary Limited Edition 4K UHD version of The Big Lebowski.

The Big Lebowski is the 1998 cult hit from the Coen brothers that has embraced the Dude culture for the last two decades. For those who haven't yet seen it (blasphemy!), The Big Lebowski revolves around the Dude played by Jeff Bridges who tries to live his life free from any sort of drama, but finds this to be hard to achieve when he gets caught up in a case of mistaken identity.

I first discovered The Big Lebowski when it initially came out in my early 20s. I had just graduated college and like so many of those of you who followed, I came to see the Dude as a sort of anti-establishment hero who couldn't be bothered to worry about anything more than his next bowling game. For me, it was hockey, but I could easily draw many parallels between the Dude and his bowling buddies and our little hockey community.

However, I have not seen the film in its entirety in probably ten years or so. It's funny how life can get in the way, isn't it? I'm sure the Dude would be disappointed with me. That said, I was excited to receive the 20th Anniversary Limited Edition to see if the film holds up and passes the test of time.

The film was a joy to revisit, like having a reunion with a college buddy that you haven't seen for many years. You laugh, you cry and you enjoy too many White Russians. I'm happy to report that despite being two decades old, The Big Lebowski continues to play remarkably well, which probably speaks to its appeal as a cult classic that continues to charm audiences with each viewing.

In particular, the performance turned in by Philip Seymour Hoffman was an emotional highlight as we celebrate his life knowing that his life ended too soon. His turn as Brandt might not rank in his top ten "best" performances, but it was certainly a memorable one to be sure. He was at the top of his game and while his role her was more on the small side, he makes the most of it and really brings the film together.

Before I get into discussing all of the goodies of the Limited Edition and the 4K UHD version of the film, I thought I would mention that all of the bonus features included on the set are the same that you would find on the Limited Edition 10th Anniversary edition. That being said, those features are robust and impressive. They gathered most of the cast and the Coen brothers to reminisce about the film and its impact on pop culture.

These featurettes and commentaries provide a unique look at such a unique film and alone they are worth the cost of the set. If you already purchased the 10th Anniversary set, it's nice to have peace of mind that when you buy this version, you will continue to enjoy the same features that you have come to love.

Now, for the fun stuff. First off, the 20th Anniversary Limited Edition 4K UHD version is massive. The box alone is a fan boy's dream come true. Trust me, you will need to clear off some hallowed ground to display this bad boy. I'm not one to do one of those unpacking videos, but this release is one of the rare offerings that actually justifies one. You can find several good ones on YouTube.

The box contains an awesome bowling bag that is a great conversation piece in its own right but also functions to house the contents of the set. As you can see in the picture below, inside the The Big Lebowski bowling bag, you will find the 4K UHD version of the film handsomely outfitted in a replica Dude sweater. There is also a bowling ball pencil holder that will spice up any office decor and if that wasn't enough, there's a polishing cloth that is a knockoff of the pivotal rug from the film.

As for the film itself, the Dude has never looked better. They went back and completed a native 4K scan from the original 35mm print to include HDR for a wider gamut. The film looks amazing and the trippy scenes are even that much more intense in 4K. The audio got a slight bump to DTS:X from the original DTS 5.1 audio track on the Blu-ray. It would have been nice to see a full Dolby Atmos track, but the film does sound better than the Blu-ray in several scenes that I compared.

Overall, the 20th Anniversary Limited Edition 4K UHD of The Big Lebowski is the definitive copy that you must own in your collection. Not only are the 4K enhancements worth another buy, but the cool tchotchkes will be a conversation starter for years to come. I was a bit bummed that they didn't revisit the film with the cast for the 20th Anniversary, but there are hopes that they will come back in five years and create even more new content for the silver anniversary of the film.