MATTIE: Who's the best marshal?
SHERIFF: Hmm, I'd have to think on that. Bill Waters is the best tracker. He's part Comanche; it is a pure joy to watch him cut for sign. The meanest is Rooster Cogburn; a pitiless man, double tough. Fear don't enter into his thinking. I'd have to say the fairest is L.T. Quinn; he always brings in his prisoners alive. Now, he might let one slip by evrey now and then, but...
MATTIE Ross: Where would I find this Rooster?
That exchange perfectly sets up up both Maddie's intentions of what she wants the end result of her manhunt to be and it also informs the audience about the character of Cogburn, even before the audience has met him. As with the original film, the story is mainly a character piece focused on the dynamic between the determined and quite proper Maddie and the gruff jaded Cogburn. Bridges chews the scenery as Cogburn in a way that he hasn't in a film for years. And in the Coen's introduction of the character, Bridges makes the most of their dialogue in a courtroom scene where he describes his bringing a group criminals to justice under cross examination:
COGBURN: I had my glass and we spotted the two boys and their old daddy, Aaron Wharton, down there on the creek bank with some hogs. They'd killed a shoat and was butchering it. They'd built a fire under a wash pot for scalding water.
MR. BARLOW: What did you do?
COGBURN: Crept down. I announced that we was U.S. marshals and hollered to Aaron that we needed to talk to his boys. He picked up a axe and commenced to cussing us and blackguarding this court.
MR. BARLOW: What did you do then?
COGBURN: Backed away trying to talk some sense into him. But C.C. edges over by the wash pot behind that steam and picks up a shotgun. Potter seen him but it was too late. C.C. Wharton pulled down on Potter with one barrel and then turned to do the same for me with the other. I shot him and when the old man swung the axe I shot him. Odus lit out and I shot him. Aaron Wharton and C.C. Wharton was dead when they hit the ground but Odus was just winged.
The Coen's tapped into folksy dialogue in a number of films, but in "True Grit," wether this is authentic language or not, this old west dialogue sounds great and is some of the best I've heard since "Will Penny" or Peckinpah. This dialogue also tells us that Cogburn may be a fat old man, but he's also a force to be reckoned with who's quick to violence. Maddie and Cogburn make quite an odd couple on the trail and are also joined by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, pronounced Le Beef, played to the hilt by by an erudite Matt Damon, who is a perfect foil to the gruff Cogburn. LaBoeuf's know-it-all attitude is also hilariously challenged by the self confident young Maddie. Cogburn's take on the trio is:
COGBURN: "I'm a foolish old man who's been drawn into a wild goose chase by a harpie in trousers and a nincompoop."
The Coen's follow the original film's story for the most part, but they bring a richness to the characters and a gritty elegance to their representation of the old west that was missing from the Wayne version. In a time when the traditional western story has become passé, the Coens have managed to make it relevant and accessible again for modern audiences.
"I'm pretty sure that, given the choice, the entire Star Wars fanbase would rather just have 73 year old Harrison Ford cast as young Han Solo and pretend, through sheer stubbornness, that he looks 20"
Dr. Teeth: Doc Hopper will never recognize you now. Fozzie: I don't know how to thank you guys. Kermit: I don't know *why* to thank you guys.
And I think that is why "The Muppet Movie" and the muppets in general have endured. They are fun for kids and also funny for adults. On a related note, if you're a muppet fan, you should do yourself a favor and watch the Jason Segel & Nicholas Stoller 2011 film "The Muppets," which perfectly captured this same charm of being enjoyable for both kids and adults, which is something most of the sequels lost and instead played more to the kids.