David Haglund in Slate:
Just released for a third time on DVD, The Big Lebowski has, in a decade, inspired a following to rival all cinematic cults, complete with annual festivals, monthly podcasts, and teachings to live by. At the heart of this denomination is the Dude, brilliantly incarnated by Jeff Bridges as a Zen slob whose three great loves are weed, white Russians, and bowling. And the Dude is indeed a fantastic character. Ten years on, though, the movie’s most striking role belongs to John Goodman as Walter Sobchak: a hawkish, slightly unhinged Vietnam vet and the Dude’s best friend and bowling partner. Watching The Big Lebowski in 2008, it becomes clear that appreciating Walter is essential to understanding what the Coen brothers are up to in this movie, which is slyer, more political, and more prescient than many of its fans have recognized. Perhaps that’s because Walter, with his bellowing, Old Testament righteousness and his deeply entrenched militarism, is an American type that barely registered on the pop-culture landscape 10 years ago. He’s a neocon.