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The Dude abides.

The Ambler Theater, one of my favorite local theaters, runs a Hollywood Summer Nights series during the summer months, highlighting great films past and present. The big highlight during the summer is the annual Little Lebowski Nite. The night in general is great fun, with a quiz, costume contest, and then the movie.

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The quiz was entertaining, as the associate director of the theater, Chris, asked a series of questions based on the film. He asked a broad range of questions in the hope of stumping the audience, but from what I remember last year, he wasn’t that successful. This year though, he got an intern for a few questions, and he got the audience on a couple of freeze-frame moments (one of them being: name a song from the Autobahn album), much to his delight.

The costume contest was a hit, with eight people lined up on stage in various dress. There was only one Dude this year, but there was also a Jesus, a couple of Strangers, Smokey, a Jackie Treehorn, and a Walter. The far and away winner though was Saddam, and his costume was amazing.

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After that, the film. This was the second time I’ve seen the film in its entirety (the first time being last year’s Little Lebowski Nite), and it was a lot funnier than I recall it being. I laughed a lot harder than I normally would in a movie theater (well, that seems to have changed in general with some recent stuff like This is the End and Frances Ha). In case anyone has never seen it, it involves an unemployed loser known as the Dude getting involved in a stupidly complex plot involving a kidnapped model wife, a crippled millionare who shares the same name as the Dude (Jeff Lebowski), an avant-garde artist, a trio of nihilists, and a porn producer. Oh, and all the Dude wants is to get his back. It’s all pointlessly absurd, and it’s great.

If anyone is in the Philly area next July, I highly recommend getting tickets for this event. They run “achiever” level tickets for the event, which includes a T-shirt (this year’s design is great) and your choice of a White Russian or sarsaparilla. It’s a fun way to spend an evening at a great theater.

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Oh, and just a few Dudes enjoying the film. (Picture from Ambler Theater; pictured: myself, Kim, and dad)

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For more info on the event, click here: http://www.renewtheaters.org/blog/films/the-big-lebowski/#.Ud4VD-V_Ab4

It took me almost the entire summer to see this film. It’s not through the fault of others (though I had wanted to see it with other people), but somehow other, good to great films came along and I saw those. And I had to drive to see this movie too (I’m largely anti-driving today, given the fact that part of this review is being written on a train).

On to the movie, which by and large is quite good. When broken down, the situations can apply to just about anyone in a relationship, both heterosexual and homosexual, but given the twist of having the main couple as a lesbian couple with children (that, pardon my French, are fucked up but not too fucked up, which describes every single child in the history of humankind), some different things can be done with the formula.

If there is a glaring weakness, it’s Ruffalo’s character, Paul. It’s not his fault; the role of the schlep-like surrogate is perfect for him. What doesn’t work out well is the eventual recasting of him as the antagonist, wherein he becomes more of an opportunist and tries to get more involved in the family when things turn south. The shift is subtle enough, but it ruins the character, who throughout the film, despite his nonchalant attitude, comes off as a rather likable self-made man. Credit to Ruffalo for bringing that charm.

That change occurs during the third act, but the ending does wrap things up nicely. The first two acts are much stronger: much of the scenes of everyone meeting the first time is appropriately clumsy and embarrassing. Each scene tends to bring out the worst in the characters in often hilarious effect: Nic (Bening) is a raging alcoholic, Jules (Moore) is too analytical and micromanages everything, Paul offends everyone and then takes back everything he says to try and not offend anyone, and Joni and Laser (Wasikowska and Hutcherson) just want to get away from the table, period.  Jules ends up going to work with Paul, and their fling covers the second act.  Paul, being Paul, enjoys the sex, while Jules looks for acceptance and gets it with Paul.

The film is essentially a slice of life, just skewed in a way, with each character facing troubles and dealing with them in sometimes conventional and unconventional ways.  It’s entertaining, often times quite hilarious, and touching as well.  Save for the stumble in the third act, you can’t go wrong with this film.

So yes, it’s been out for two months already, and if you haven’t seen it yet, go ahead and do so.  You’ll enjoy it.

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