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Minor League Baseball Masterpiece,
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This review is from: Bull Durham (DVD)
Ron Shelton spent some time in the minor leagues represented in his screenplay for Bull Durham, so he knows about the baseball things represented. But he also clearly has a gifted ear for the tempo of real life, and he knows about hopes and desires and the things that make human beings tick. The setting for this film with the minor league Durham Bulls works, and works perfectly, but the characters, especially among the central love triangle, could just as easily have been traveling salesmen or race drivers or con artists or gangsters.
Susan Sarandon plays Annie Savoy, a slightly older woman who is a Durham Bulls groupie of sorts: once a season she picks out a promising young player and begins an affair with them. During that season the promising young player has the year of his life and gets called up to the big leagues, leaving Annie to look for next year's promising young player.
The Bulls also have a million-dollar prospect of a pitcher with a right arm who the gods reached down and turned into a thunderbolt. He also has less control than a seven year old with hyperactive attention deficit disorder without his Ritalin. He's as likely to throw it over the backstop as throw a strike, although his "stuff" is like Nolan Ryan or Randy Johnson. Tim Robbins brings "Nuke" LaLoosh to life in his best comic performance.
Kevin Costner, in the best of his many baseball-movie appearances, plays "Crash" Davis, a power-hitting catcher with enough talent to be a leader on minor league teams, but only 21 days in "The Show" in years of minor league work. Crash is not only a competent minor league catcher though - he also knows the history of the game, and he knows how to get into the heads of players who have mental blocks preventing them from achieving all they can as baseball players.
Crash, meet Nuke. Both of you - meet Annie.
The dialogue is so witty and sparkling that more than a decade after the film's release, it still shows up frequently in discussions about baseball movies and on ESPN. Crash envies Nuke's god-given talent, and by degrees the clueless Nuke begins to appreciate Crash's baseball wisdom. Annie has the hots for both of them, and they for her, and the way this triangle evolves and resolves makes for a very satisfying baseball movie watching experience.
The movie would be worth watching if only for the hilarious little scenes that happen out on the playing field between catcher Costner and pitcher Robbins. Nuke has the million-dollar arm and the ten-cent head. Crash knows his job (and everyone elses as well) like the back of his hand. Whenever Nuke starts trying to think for himself, he quickly gets into trouble, frequently with active assistance from Crash.
Crash "calls" the game - signalling to the pitcher which pitches to throw. When Nuke listens things go well. When Nuke doesn't listen, Crash whispers to the hitter what pitch is coming so that the batter can tee off on the pitch. Then as the batter circles the bases after his home run Crash goes out to the mound to remind Nuke not to try thinking for himself. "Boy, the last thing I saw fly out of here like that had a stewardess and passengers on it!"
Supporting parts are performed to hilarious perfection as well, with particular kudos to Trey Wilson as the manager and Robert Wuhl as a team coach. They have many entertaining scenes, including the one following Nuke's minor-league debut - when he struck out 18..... but also walked 18 - both league records! A must for grown-up baseball fans.