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Overall Rating
4.33

Awesome49.7%
Worth A Look: 38.79%
Just Average: 7.88%
Pretty Crappy: 1.82%
Sucks: 1.82%

11 reviews, 99 user ratings


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Big Fish
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by Erik Childress

"When The Legend Becomes Fact...Eh, You Should Know The Rest"
4 stars

At some point during Big Fish you’ll likely find yourself in the shoes of William Bloom, the son who has heard his father’s tall tales one too many times. You’ll think you’ve seen this story before too, a reminiscence of a man who fancifully recalls a past that not only seems to influence history, but is just too good to be true. Subtract a few years, a few more IQ points, give the guy a bench and you get the familiar picture. It’s the connection though with William in the film’s closing scenes that we want to have in our own lives that ultimately makes Tim Burton’s new tall tale such a truly special experience.

The time-tested bond between a father and his son is never without its share of rocky moments. William Bloom (Billy Crudup) just once would like to hear something out of his father’s mouth that isn’t splashed with a dose of surrealistic fantasy. As a journalist always on the lookout for facts, his father’s ramblings rank somewhere along the lines of Stephen Glass. Edward Bloom (Albert Finney, worthy of another Oscar nomination) has never apologized for his fanciful storytelling. His tall tales are a way of simply entertaining and metaphoring the eccentricities of life with the events of his youth. Or maybe he truly believes what he’s shoveling.

It’s towards the end of his life now and William, estranged from his father since a blow-up on his wedding night, is coming home to finally put some pieces together. Through Edward’s words we are taken back into his past where a young Edward (Ewan McGregor, quickly becoming a cinematic treasure) was once a “big fish in a small pond”; a well-known jock and all-around successful young man. Soon, he will be thrust into the real world (as real as Edward’s mind would allow anyway) as he guides a gentle giant (Matthew McGrory) out of town and into his own adventures.

Earning his keep at a traveling circus under the watchguard and tutelage of the ringmaster (Danny DeVito), Edward fancifully recalls meeting Sandra, the love of his life (played by Alison Lohman and then Jessica Lange, who shines in just a few brief scenes). The efforts Edward goes through to woo the young beauty makes us romantic and hopeful for both our own future and that of our parents’ original courtship.

Episodic in its technique to weave this yarn, it would be unfair to unveil every journey that the elder Bloom steps into. Somewhere just south of the midway point of this path though, we begin longing for where fiction ends and reality begins. Perhaps its instinctual to place us into William’s way of thinking instead of just making him another “daddy didn’t love me” victim, but we’re just as eager to connect-the-dots.

John August’s screenplay (reportedly a very tough adaptation from Daniel Wallace’s original novel) slyly forces us to pay attention since the subtleties of Edward’s tales aren’t entirely spelled out for our consumption. Most (but not all) of the strands come together in William’s late visit to one of the characters left behind in his father’s world. It doesn’t account for everything but it slowly brings William and ourselves to understanding his father. By the time Robert Guillame’s family doctor comes around to wisely explain the reality of actual reality, we’re set-up for one of the grand emotional climaxes in this or any year. The double-duty of the finale is enough to bring any disbeliever around.

The idea that Big Fish is some kind of turning point towards maturity for Tim Burton (a mid-life crisis like backhanded observation that also befell Steven Spielberg with Hook) is for thumbnosed critics unable to grasp that Burton has been making adult fairy-tales all the way back to Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Go look at the other titles in what could now be called “the trilogy of Ed” (Edward Scissorhands & Ed Wood) and try to sell me that those weren’t films for more mature imaginations. Like Edward says, “Most men tell you stories straight through. It won’t be complicated. It won’t be interesting, either.”

I am incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity to see Big Fish a second time before sitting down to write this review. My first impression was that of a “Forrest Gump-lite” that both fascinated and frustrated (just like William) before clobbering me with its finale. The subsequent go-around I found myself more like Edward, grasping a surehanded delight of the stories he already knew and wanted to share with others. Then getting clobbered with its finale. Most everyone’s dad has told them anecdotes in their day. Whether we believe them or not, there’s an undeniable instinct that we want to. And he probably hopes that his legacy will live on in some way, either in the tall-tales or the son he leaves behind. In the end, Big Fish gets this bond. And don’t we all want to know how every story ends or, better yet, be able to have a little control of it ourselves? (4.5 out of 5)

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8377&reviewer=198
originally posted: 12/25/03 00:58:44
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/16/12 obnox brilliant, awesome, remarkable...yesssssss 5 stars
1/15/12 hurdygurdy man Not sure who's this for...maybe w/some good Acid?? 3 stars
3/05/10 cutie_b's this movie made me realize that clowns should ALWAYS carry guns. 5 stars
12/01/09 Troy The best movie I've seen in 10 years. Just awesome 5 stars
7/27/09 iloveEM i loved this movie ewan mcgregor did an amazing job with a great accent 5 stars
8/02/08 Shaun Wallner Such a Happy Story! 5 stars
7/27/08 The Dork Knight I don't get it. 3 stars
5/14/08 PAUL SHORTT PROOF THAT A GOOD CAST CAN DO LITTLE TO HELP A POORLY WRITTEN, UNORGANISED SCRIPT 1 stars
5/07/08 chamorro awesome 5 stars
2/17/08 SamanthaP it was really sweet and imaginative and sad at the end (good sad) 5 stars
6/16/07 Bopo A phenomenonally creative feel good movie. Easily one of my favorites. 5 stars
2/16/07 Vip Ebriega A great story with a moral agenda. 3 stars
11/10/06 David Pollastrini very funny 3 stars
7/24/06 R.W.Welch Not flawless, but highly imaginative, funny and touching, too. Close enough. 5 stars
12/30/05 tony BORING 1 stars
8/27/05 Quigley ewan ruled int his, as he always does. its surreal atmosphere is great and enjoyable. 5 stars
8/05/05 Zack GREAT! 5 stars
7/15/05 Charlie Alison Lohman is great in this flick, just like in Matchstick Men. 5 stars
4/30/05 Alyson A magical and enchanting movie. Favorite actor and director. 5 stars
3/12/05 Alice Colwell allright 4 stars
3/01/05 Pinthestripeonthegoat Tales of a catfish hunter 5 stars
12/24/04 Red Sox Still Suck Great movie. Tim Burton rarely disappoints. See it by all means 5 stars
12/14/04 Tom Benton Beautiful, moving, clever and often funny drama, Burton's "Forrest Gump"; McGregor is great 5 stars
11/30/04 lolalaloca13 1 of top 5 fave films 5 stars
11/26/04 Matt Carson looking forward to seeing it again 5 stars
11/22/04 luis i like it but the 2 chinnesse girls they werent join? 5 stars
9/23/04 denny the parts were better than the whole 4 stars
9/12/04 Edgar Well, it manipulated my feelings, but in a clever well done way... 5 stars
9/07/04 JeffK Very enjoyable 5 stars
8/25/04 Anthony G good times 4 stars
8/20/04 DM Tied with Ed Wood as Tim Burton's best movie 5 stars
7/28/04 tristan tim burtons best since edward scissorhands 5 stars
7/27/04 Mike Devans Nothing spectacular. I expected more out of it 4 stars
7/20/04 AngeFaitore Forrest Gump Acid Trip! 3 stars
7/08/04 Ruth Ann Farver Overblown, Mundane, Cutesy, Junk 1 stars
7/06/04 Taylor Fladgate Unforgetable 5 stars
7/03/04 Ionicera good all around but too sentimental near the end 4 stars
6/14/04 Gerry Ditrich Bloody Brilliant!! best film by Tim Burton so far 5 stars
6/11/04 Larry We live on by the way we are remembered. Seems simple, yet this is done so beautifully! 5 stars
6/07/04 palaboy101 unforgettable and excellent! 5 stars
5/26/04 Russell Watson Wonderful Movie 5 stars
5/24/04 DMF Incredibly affecting. If you have (or had) a parent, see it. 5 stars
5/21/04 Gretchen Ross this was a beautiful film in terms of story and acting; very creative as well 5 stars
5/19/04 Matthew Tim Burton's best effort since "Ed Wood"! 5 stars
5/10/04 Efrain Vivas a masterpiece 5 stars
5/06/04 Mermaid's Pedicurist Overblown tribute to the fetish that flaky and offbeat is automatically good. 2 stars
5/06/04 Maryclaire Becan LOVE THIS MOVIE 5 stars
5/02/04 blue absolutely magical 5 stars
4/16/04 A Reader Strikes right notes of fantasy, whimsy, sentimentality; the town of Spectre will haunt you. 5 stars
3/26/04 S-P Sweet Movie..similair to FG, but not as interesting. 3 stars
3/23/04 Chloe Brody THis was so sweet - how gorgeous was Edward??? 4 stars
3/19/04 kari dennis great movie 5 stars
3/16/04 Holly Beeman ...The most beautiful story ever told. :~) 5 stars
3/01/04 Wendranh strange plot...different 3 stars
2/28/04 alien assasin "Forrest Gump" with a quirky twist 4 stars
2/26/04 Troy Butler Not Burton's best, but highly entertaining nonetheless!!! 4 stars
2/25/04 susan lee liked use of VO... diff burton style ..ewan rocks! 4 stars
2/23/04 Naturezrevenge Whimsical, magical and loaded with innuendo, this is Burton at his best. Rich and tasty. 5 stars
2/23/04 FrayLo I wasn't sure about this movie at the beginning, but the ending sealed it for me. 4 stars
2/21/04 Phyllis Joy Very good movie. Stunning visuals and an interesting storyline. "Almost Awesome." 4 stars
2/17/04 Joe So good 5 stars
2/16/04 ian THIS FILM WAS SENT BY GOD- AMAZING JUST AMAZING DESERVES MORE THAN 5 STARS 5 stars
2/16/04 Chris I thought this was a nice good movie but the ending made it terrfic. I loved it alot. 5 stars
2/09/04 Caiphn Great film. 5 stars
2/08/04 Whatevr The only sucking this movie does is sucking you in. 5 stars
2/07/04 Smitty Great performance by Finney. A visually stunning film reminiscent of Fellini in his prime. 4 stars
2/07/04 ThriceRise beautiful movie. 5 stars
2/07/04 john bale A modern fairytale that proves to be poetic Cinema of the Wizard of Oz quality 5 stars
2/06/04 Brendan What a story and what a telling. I'll see it again. 5 stars
2/02/04 Matt One of Tim Burton's best! 5 stars
2/02/04 Monday Morning Disappointingly manipulative. 2 stars
2/02/04 Heath Entertaining and imaginitive! 5 stars
1/31/04 STUFU McGrego and Finney are great, but Crudup gives a boring performance. Great overall. 5 stars
1/30/04 Chopper3 Very nicely crafted indeed 5 stars
1/26/04 Helen Bradley McGregor great; confusing plot too long 2 stars
1/25/04 Lord Chu Very, very nice 5 stars
1/24/04 chris. excellent film...better than the other crap they want us to see 5 stars
1/19/04 disaffected daughter too forgiving of remorseless bad parenting 4 stars
1/18/04 yeahboy Forrest Gump meets Baron Munchausen!! 4 stars
1/18/04 Nicole Very entertaining 5 stars
1/18/04 Bemused Often Brilliant; although I would love to see Burton transcend his own style for a change 5 stars
1/17/04 steve andrews 2003's Best! 5 stars
1/17/04 Ayatolla of Rockinrolla The best movie of 2003. Similar yet better than Forrest Gump 5 stars
1/17/04 jcjs fantastic 5 stars
1/16/04 Agent Sands Too unbelievably entertaining for words! Fantastic! 5 stars
1/14/04 Todd Bertuzzi What a beautiful movie....expected great...got great. Wow...very, VERY good. 5 stars
1/14/04 Betty White Pleasant, charming Burton flick; Lange & Finney are wonderful. 4 stars
1/13/04 Jon Lyrik One of the best films of 2003, and Burton's best since Ed Wood. 5 stars
1/13/04 AH I've only cried that hard one other time at a theatre, but I was so happy at the same time 5 stars
1/13/04 syrius speechless 5 stars
1/12/04 Gray the most beautiful death scene ever filmed 5 stars
1/12/04 KingNeutron Burton's best film, IMHO. Helena Bonham Carter's char stole the show for me. 5 stars
1/11/04 HorrorScribbler That Tim Burton, he make-a me cry! 5 stars
1/10/04 T. Hall Has there been better casting this year? 5 stars
1/09/04 jcjs wow, under the infulence, captivating, transforming, telling, delightful, clever etc. 5 stars
1/06/04 JT Finale made my GF cry! 5 stars
1/02/04 chris 1 movie has ever made me cry. this is the second. one of my top 5 favorites 5 stars
12/28/03 Eric S. Good movie, nice ending, unique 4 stars
12/16/03 - Fantastic superb. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  10-Dec-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 08-Nov-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  05-Feb-2004




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