Bull Durham (1988)
Written and Directed by Ron Shelton
Starring: Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon
Crash Davis (Costner) has been floating around the minor leagues for years. His career has been more downs than ups and now he’s been assigned to the Durham Bulls. His job is to help mature and develop a talented and immature young pitcher named “Nuke” LaLoosh (Robbins). As the two struggle to understand one another they’re also both interested in the affections of Annie Savoy (Sarandon). She spends each season with a different player from the ball club, and this time she’s torn between Crash and LaLoosh. As the three of them begin to figure one another out, Crash and LaLoosh both come to terms with the direction their careers are taking them.
This is one of the films that always comes up when people start talking about baseball movies. Ron Shelton both wrote and directed this one, making the push to get it produced despite the initial lack of interest from most studios. For his efforts, Shelton was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay. The film features a number of great actors including Kevin Costner (Field of Dreams) in the first of the three baseball films he’s done to date. The film also stars Tim Robbins (The Shawshank Redemption) in his breakout role. Susan Sarandon (Thelma and Louise) rounds out the cast, in a role that became one of her biggest successes at the time.
This story was a labor of love from former minor league baseball player, Ron Shelton (Cobb). Based on his experience and the experiences of those around him, Shelton was able to craft a nice story of the highs and low of the minor leagues. This includes the nicely contrasting characters of Costner and Robbins. Their characters clash in every way, except for the game of baseball. While Crash is facing the end of his career, LaLoosh is discovering the possibilities in front of him. The balance to this all comes from Sarandon’s character, who seems to balance out the tension in this one. Overall, the story is fun and has aged really well.
The acting in this one is really great. Robbins got his chance to break through in this one, and he took advantage of it. His character is flawed and egotistical, but Robbins also manages to give him a vulnerability that really makes him interesting. Sarandon is equally good, bringing depth to a role that otherwise would’ve been predictable and boring. Costner is also really good in his role as an aging and frustrated star. The rest of the cast is also really good in this one. Shelton had a number of minor league baseball players fill in the roles on the team, making sure to keep some credibility in the way the games were depicted.
Most baseball fans have heard of this one, and I’m sure many have seen it. If you’ve missed it, take some time to enjoy this interesting and unique baseball movie. I would also recommend this one to fans of the stars. This is a good drama with enough comedy in it to make it fun throughout. The themes in this one are adult and I wouldn’t make this a family movie night selection. I give this one 4.5 out of 5 stars.