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Bull Durham: Special Edition

When Ron Shelton makes a movie about sports — and he usually does — he doesn't bother with buzzer-beating, game-winning clichés. Once a minor league baseball player himself, Shelton made his directorial debut with Bull Durham (1988), a loving and wistful look at the far-from-star-studded athletes who eke out a career in the minor leagues, and the dedicated fans who delight in the pure art of sport. Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) is mournfully approaching the end of a record-breakingly mediocre journeyman career in minor league baseball when the Durham Bulls bring him in to shepherd and mentor an undisciplined, dimwitted rookie pitcher (Tim Robbins). Both players catch the attention of dedicated fan Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon), to whom baseball is both religion and romance. Shelton has a gift for humor, and Robbins carries the comic weight of Bull Durham with a star-making performance, but underlying the levity is a weighty poignancy. Shelton understands that the pursuit of the athlete is the pursuit of virtually unreachable dreams, and Costner's nuanced performance gracefully wraps that sadness in a light blanket of comic charisma. MGM's re-release of Bull Durham on DVD comes in a good Special Edition, with a clean 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer (and a full-frame transfer on the flip side of the disc) and Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. In addition to the top-notch commentary by Ron Shelton included with the film's first DVD incarnation, a second commentary has been added featuring Costner and Robbins, who bring the perspective of two accomplished directors to their laid back and nostalgic reminiscence. Both stars come across as intelligent, candid, funny, and very down-to-earth in one of the better thespian commentaries around. Also included are a new half-hour documentary, including interviews with Shelton, Costner, Sarandon and Robbins, as well as a few former Bulls players, plus a brief "Sports Wrap" pre-release promo for the film and an even shorter "Kevin Costner Profile" from the same era. Photo gallery, trailer. Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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