Where have all the good sports movies gone? There was a time when an errant fly ball to left field could fall on Slap Shot, Field of Dreams, Rocky, or Rollerball. These days we’re supposed to be satisfied with crap like Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch, Slap Shot 2, or, well, Rollerball. It’s precisely this state of affairs that makes the Bull Durham special edition so welcome. As a film, it stands as a sweet, sad, knowing ode to baseball, the men who play the game, and the women who love them. It was the first time that we truly bought the tarnished-knight package that Kevin Costner was selling and it was the movie on which Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon met.
The triple play of Costner, Robbins, and Sarandon forms the heart of the film, and the inherent discomfort gives the disc’s jewel – the commentary track by Costner and Robbins (below) – a strange, voyeuristic kick. The two appear to get along famously: They joke amiably, wax philosophic on baseball and romance, talk about their subsequent directing careers, and give all due respect to writer-director Ron Shelton (who’s got his own separate commentary), but when they get to the part where Costner’s aging catcher and Sarandon’s wizened groupie consummate their relationship, Robbins cools off considerably. “This is the part of the movie I don’t like watching.” Can you imagine what it must be like to sit in a room, watching a movie in which your wife makes love to another man, and having that man sit right next to you? “This is the scene my kids’ll find the most confusing in this movie,” Robbins deadpans, handling the awkwardness with an almost impossible grace.
The DVD’s one shortcoming lies in its deleted scenes, or rather the lack thereof. Costner goes on about this great scene they shot here, or that other bit that got cut there, and they all sound fantastic, but they’re nowhere to be found. What is a special-edition DVD for if not to give viewers a new way to experience a movie they’ve loved for years? That’s the one missed pitch that keeps Bull Durham from throwing a perfect game.