Bull Durham (1988)

Directed by Ron Shelton

My favourite sport to watch is hockey – it’s the Canadian in me, I suppose. After hockey, it would have to be football. Both sports are the ones I loved playing most when I was young. Baseball, on the other hand, is not a sport I enjoy very much. But …

When it comes to making movies, nothing comes close to baseball. As others have said, baseball combines the element of the team and the element of the individual in a way like no other sport.

There have been a lot of baseball movies, like The Pride of the Yankees and The Natural, but for me the best is Bull Durham. And I think the reason it is my favourite is because while it’s about baseball it’s not about baseball.

The immediate charm of Bull Durham is its love for the sport itself and by the choice to focus on the minor leagues rather than the starry majors. There is no attempt to gloss over the low rent quality of the minors; in fact, the film goes the other direction.

By doing this, the movie expresses the best of the sport by getting right into the stands and down into the dugout where real people live (as opposed to millionaires).

More significantly, the movie focuses on a handful of characters creating a romantic-comedic triangle. And while one of them (Tim Robbins) isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, the other two are (Susan Sarandon as Annie and Kevin Kostner as Crash Davis). The intelligence of these two characters allows director-screenwriter Ron Shelton to write some brilliant dialogue and speeches. Robbins’ character also allows for great moments both through what he says and by his physical comedy.

But the best aspect of the movie is the way it tells it story without resorting to an improbable happy ending. While the film does end on a happy note, it does so without rewarding the characters of Annie and Crash with anything other than the real world and each other.

Susan Sarandon is perfect in her performance, as are Tim Robbins and Kevin Kostner. This is a film that works because it begins with an exceptionally well-written script that is supported by wonderful performances by its leads, equally wonderful performances by the supporting cast, and great, unobtrusive direction by Shelton.

I loved this when it came out; I love it still. This is one of my favourite movies.

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