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‘Bull Durham’

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 17, 1988


Ron Shelton
Kevin Costner;
Susan Sarandon;
Tim Robbins;
Trey Wilson;
Robert Wuhl
Under 17 restricted

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Laughs, sex and baseball: They get big play in "Bull Durham." Writer/director Ron Shelton lobs juicy lines to players Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, and they all hit home. All we're short of, in Shelton's amusing visit to the ballpark, are beer and hot-dog vendors barking their wares in the movie-theater aisles.

Costner, on spring break from last year's high dramas ("The Untouchables," "No Way Out"), proves he can be comedic too, as "Crash" Davis, a good-looking, aging catcher who missed out on the majors. Now in his waning athletic years, he's stuck catching for the Bull Durhams of North Carolina and coaching the team's erratic pitcher "Nuke" LaLoosh (Robbins), who throws hard but mostly into the bleachers. Crash must also watch the rookie successfully steal Bull groupie Annie Savoy (Sarandon), a talent scout of a different order.

The team has been Annie's calling ever since she discovered there were as many stitches on a baseball as beads on a rosary. Her offbeat philosophy now incorporates sex, religion and English Lit 101. Both she and Crash will be pressing Nuke with their knowledge. She makes Nuke wear garters to correct his throwing posture. Crash tells Nuke not to think because "it can only hurt the ball club."

"Have you heard of Walt Whitman?" Annie asks Nuke. "Who's he play for?" he asks.

"Durham" isn't about knocking game-winning homers. It's about finding your place in the life-as-baseball universe. And even though Nuke, a man of Iron Maiden T-shirts, "a million dollar arm and a five-cent head," needs the most counseling, Crash and Annie must also find their own cosmic position (and they come close, in the bathtub).

Comically, "Durham" hits mostly in its early innings. Shelton (a former infielder with the Orioles' farm system) implants comedy everywhere: in Annie's fling with Nuke, during Crash's screwball relationship with Annie and among the Bull Durhams who, at one time, have to call time out because Crash and Nuke can't get Annie off their minds and the team can't think of the right wedding gift for one of the players. But after the seventh-inning stretch, "Durham" bats only respectably average -- mainly because the expected happens. You may catch yourself trying to remember where you parked a little before the end.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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