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For, Friday, July 13, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: The boutique label Criterion Collection has upgraded this beloved baseball picture with a new release in both Blu-ray and DVD, and loads of bonus features. Here’s my review, published in the Deseret News on June 15, 1988.

If baseball is anywhere close to a religion for you, perhaps you can identify with Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) — or for that matter, up-and-coming pitcher Ebby Calvin LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) or down-and-nearly-out catcher Crash Davis (Kevin Costner).

These are the folks who make up the romantic triangle of “Bull Durham.” But it’s not your typical triangle. Nor is this your typical baseball movie.

A lighthearted, leisurely romantic comedy about life in the minor leagues, “Bull Durham” has its heart in the right place, if not always its head, and may appeal to adult audiences looking for some raunchy sports-minded humor among the summer releases. (It is rightly rated R for sex, nudity and language.)


Kevin Costner, center, with Tim Robbins to his right and Robert Wuhl to his left in 'Bull Durham.'

Though a bit too leisurely for its own good at times — the film slows down to a virtual halt in some places — “Bull Durham” is an interesting slice of Americana. The focus is on a minor ball club — the Bulls — of Durham, N.C., as seen through the eyes of Annie. (Point of view is also a problem here as it shifts from Annie a time or two, causing the film as a whole to waver.)

With a little baseball shrine in her living room and a penchant for Edith Piaf records and Walt Whitman poetry, Annie picks the top player for the Bulls every year and spends the season with him. She is monogamous, she explains, within the framework of the baseball season.

But each year the best player moves on to “The Show” — the major leagues — and Annie moves on to a new man.

This year, however, the choice is too close for her to call — between Ebby and Crash. Ebby is the flavor-of-the-month, with genuine talent (a fastball that needs work to keep it in the strike zone) and no brains. Crash has been with the minors too long, has the memory of a 21-day fling with the majors that he clings to and isn’t crazy about Annie’s approach. So he walks out and lets Ebby have her. Or lets her have him.

But eventually Crash and Annie will fall in love, and Annie will learn that love is more powerful than … dare we suggest it? … even baseball.


What “Bull Durham” mainly has going for it is a series of very well-written scenes that are alternately touching and funny, grounded in the quirkiness of eccentric characters that make up the ball team (My favorite is when half the team is on the field in the middle of a game trying to decide on a wedding gift for another team member.)

Writer-director Ron Shelton (he also wrote “Under Fire” and “The Best of Times”) has a real knack for creating human behavior, and he extracts wonderful performances from both Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins. But it is Susan Sarandon as Annie who gives the film its special oomph. She is utterly charming and delightful as the sexy, sharp-eyed and slightly loopy Annie.

Rated R for sex, nudity, profanity and vulgarity (all in fair abundance), “Bull Durham” is a nice adult change during a summer filled with adolescent-oriented fluff.