A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Big Lebowski is the classic 1998 Coen Brothers comedy in which Jeff Bridges plays a laid-back slacker who becomes embroiled in a kidnapping and extortion scheme. There's constant profanity throughout the movie, and "f--k" is the word of choice of The Dude and his friends. Saddam Hussein is referred to as a "camel f---er," and The Dude refers to one of the men who attacked him as a "Chinaman." There's some violence, including The Dude getting beaten up and knocked out by thugs, attacked with a marmot by nihilists, and knocked over by a strike in the head with a coffee cub by the Malibu chief of police. The Dude's friend Walter bites off the ear of one of the nihilists, and vandalizes a Corvette with a tire iron. The Dude often smokes pot, and is known for drinking White Russians. In one scene, The Dude smokes a joint and drinks a beer while driving, resulting in a crash. The trophy wife of the "other" Lebowski is a pornographic film actress shown in a scene in one of her movies showing female nudity. The actress offers to perform oral sex on The Dude for $1000. The movie, characters, and story have taken on a life of their own among its rabid fan base, and families can talk about the ways in which the movie, like many of the Coen Brothers movies, is a satire of the culture and people of a particular region of America (in this case, Southern California), and also how The Dude is viewed as a kind of Zen master who "abides" through life's ups and downs.
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What's the story?
All the Dude (Jeff Bridges) wants is some more milk for his White Russians. Instead, he comes home from an all-night grocery store to an ambush by some thugs who mistake the Dude for Jeffrey Lebowski, a philanthropist with a wife who's racking up debts all over town. The guys shove his head in a toilet, urinate on his rug, and leave the place with a threat. From there on, the Dude just wants to replace his rug, which "tied the whole place together." Following the Dude, THE BIG LEBOWSKI takes the viewer on a crazy ride. All along, the Dude is accompanied by his blustering Vietnam vet bowling buddy Walter (John Goodman), who gets him in even worse trouble. Will the Dude be able to recover a lost $1 million ransom? Will Maude carry his baby? And what ever happened to the porn actress-turned-trophy wife-turned-supposed kidnapping victim? The Dude will show you.
Is it any good?
Nymphomania, pot, White Russians, and the search for a rug to tie his living room together set the stage for The Big Lebowski, a wild ride through Los Angeles' underbelly. Like other Coen brothers' movies, the story is too crazy to be believed -- and so well done you can't stop watching it.
The brilliance of The Big Lebowski isn't so much in the story -- though it's got plenty of twists and turns -- but the characters and actors. Along with the two main players, there's the masterfully creepy and hilarious Jesus (John Turturro), the Oscar-winning and brilliant Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Steve Buscemi, who uses his doe eyes to great effect here. Having sung the films praises, it's also important to say that this is NOT a movie for kids.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the Dude's lifestyle. Is that something you aspire to? How would you handle a situation of mistaken identity? Would you listen to your friends the way the Dude listens to Walter?
The Big Lebwoski is an example of a movie that has taken on a life of its own in terms of how the story and characters are interpreted by its most ardent fans. How does this phenomenon reflect the idea that art and its appreciation is a subjective experience? Can you think of other movies or television shows that inspire debate about what their meaning?
Why do fans consider this movie to be a classic? Does the humor still work today? Why or why not?
- In theaters: January 1, 1998
- On DVD or streaming: October 18, 2005
- Cast: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore
- Director: Joel Coen
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 108 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: pervasive strong language, drug content, sexuality, and brief violence
- Last updated: April 23, 2020
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