Bull Durham (1988)

Every season, Annie (Susan Sarandon) picks up one of the Durham Bulls baseball team and gives him the summer of his life, which involves extreme sex, forced readings from Walt Whitman, Edith Piaf records, lots of candles and advice that will put the lucky guy in the Sports Hall of Fame. This year, she's torn between 'Nuke' LaLoosh (Tim Robbins), a young pitcher 'with a million dollar arm and a five cent head', and Crash Davis (Kevin Costner), an almost-was great catcher on the point of retirement. Davis leaves her to LaLoosh, whom he has been hired to turn into a human being, but star billing alone suggests this isn't the romantic team we can expect at the fade-out. Even if your automatic reaction to Bull Durham is 'I don't want to go see a movie about baseball, fahcrissake' you should make the effort to catch this witty, charming, funny and oddly unforgettable picture. Director and ex-ball-player Ron Shelton cut his teeth as the writer of Under Fire and the excellent released-only-to-video American Football movie The Best of Times, and this is his semi-autobiographical personal project. As a sports movie, it manages to work for an audience who don't know a catcher's mitt from astroturf without resorting to let's-win-for-the-Gipper devices. And as a bizarre romance, it's consistently affecting and comes complete with more quotable lines to the minute than any other comedy in recent memory. Kevin Costner is rumpled and endearing in his best role to date, and is admirably partnered by the always wonderful Susan Sarandon - memorably in an extended making-out scene to the tune of 'Sixty Minute Man' - and the marvellously stupid Robbins, who starts out referring to his pitching as 'radical in a tubular kind of way' before being schooled in the fine art of baseball clichés. The best American sports film since The Bad News Bears and one of the few films ever to suggest that intelligence in a woman is sexy.
KIM NEWMAN

First Published In: City Limits (issue unknown)


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