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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 39.16%
Just Average: 7.83%
Pretty Crappy: 1.81%
Sucks: 1.81%

11 reviews, 100 user ratings

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Big Fish
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by DrChumley

"A Fisherman's Tall Tale beautifully brought to the screen"
5 stars

Some people like living in a world sharpened by the jagged edges of harsh reality. Others prefer to live life in the diffused glow of a rose-tinted world.

Ed Bloom (Albert Finney / Ewen McGregor) falls into the latter camp. His son, Will (Billy Crudup), inhabits the former. Ed loves to tell the stories of his life: catching the long-elusive giant catfish inhabited by the soul of a long-dead pirate by using his gold wedding band as bait; discovering the details of his eventual death by looking into the glass eye of the local witch; working in the circus for three years to find out details of a woman with whom he fell in love at first sight. Will has heard these stories before, and he’s tired of the tall tales.

It is after years of estrangement that Will finds himself at the bed of his dying father trying to reconcile fiction with reality. To Will, Ed won’t open up about his real life. To Ed, Will is unwilling to accept the person he really is. In the end, they’re both right and they’re both wrong.

Big Fish is a film about a master storyteller told by one of the greatest storytellers of our time, Tim Burton. With a wonderfully unique, heartfelt, and deep-yet-simple script by screenwriter John August (Charlie’s Angels, Titan A.E.), Burton has created a breathtaking film.

The cast is uniformly accomplished. Billy Crudup is wonderful as the analytically-minded Will, Jessica Lange shines as Ed’s devoted wife, and there are wonderful appearances by the tremendously under-appreciated Robert Guillaume and Steve Buscemi as the Bloom family doctor and one of Ed’s fanciful characters, respectively. But the real kudos belong to Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney for their living embodiment of the character of Ed Bloom.

Ewan McGregor once again shows amazing prowess with his ability to imbue storybook-ish lines with stylization and realism simultaneously. The Ed Bloom of times past, as told through story, McGregor takes lines easily ruined by a less-proficient actor, and finds the proper balance between reality and cartoony melodrama—much like the stories he is living out.

Albert Finney, however, deserves a best supporting actor Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the senior Ed Bloom. Though confined to a bed for most of the film, Finney fills the screen with the personality and enthusiasm for life that befits a master of the fanciful tale. Even as he struggles for his life, he maintains a zest for the world that drives the film forward smoothly through what could have become a quagmire of hyper-emotionalism.

The film’s visuals are stunning. Burton, in his trademark way, along with cinematographer Philippe Rousselot, has managed to turn Ed’s stylized memories into Technicolor wonders—imbuing the screen with the heightened saturation found only in the mind. The bright glow of Ed’s stories contrasts sharply with the harsh light of his reality, helping us to understand why someone might very well chose to live his life in stories from the past.

Burton has always been a master of adapting the story/comic book to the screen. He has created dark, surreal world inhabited by unusual people and creatures in films like Nightmare Before Christmas and Edward Scissorhands. His trademark “weirdness” is still evident in Big Fish, but never in an obtrusive way. He masterfully chooses his moments of surrealism, and never allows them to lose their grounding in reality.

Even the film’s pacing in nearly perfect: Burton never attempts to drag the audience along, but he rarely lets us get mired down in the heightened visuals or the many potential emotional black holes that exist in a script such as this. Instead, he lets the movie wander freely, much like one of Ed’s famous stories. Even the end of the film, which is a five-tissue tear-jerker, is simply allowed to happen organically, without resorting to the blatant emotional manipulation found so often in cinema.

Through it all, Will learns that his father’s life was more extraordinary than even his stories could have led anyone to believe. And though Ed’s stories were colored by the workings of an active imagination, as all good stories are, sometimes, the taller the tale, the more important it is—true or not. Big Fish is the story of a man who lived his life in the diffused glow of a rose-tinted world. And by the closing credits, it’s a world in which we hope to find ourselves much more often.

Is it worth going? YES. Enough Said. (9 out of 10)

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8377&reviewer=311
originally posted: 01/31/04 09:58:40
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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

5/21/20 Charles Tatum Ultimately charming film 4 stars
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
5/07/08 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 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
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  10-Dec-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 08-Nov-2005



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