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Big Fish (2003)

August 9, 2010

9/10 Tall Tales

One of the best movies out there about the universal power of storytelling.

Big Fish is about a middle-aged journalist with a son on the way who tries to make amends with his dying father in the hopes of hearing the real story of his long, unique life after being told nothing but grandiose fiction mixed with hints of reality about every little detail since the day he was born. Granted, those stories are absolutely fantastic, but

Now, when Tim Burton strikes out, he tends to strike out hard. Alice in Wonderland, Planet of the Apes, Mars Attacks! – you get the idea. But more often than not, Tim Burton is kinda the man and for a guy who’s made a career out of bringing nightmares to life in the most wonderful ways, it’s a little weird that one of his few “non-Burtonian” (copyright Cut The Crap Movie Reviews, 2010) efforts which doesn’t set out to traumatize out every last child in the room is actually one of the crowning achievements of his career. It’s a tonal mix between Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood and if there was ever a movie to come out in the past decade that reminds us why stories make the world go ’round, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find one that fits the bill any closer.

It’s a complicated meditation on fathers and sons, it’s a sprawling fairy tale that’s as strange as it is beautiful, and if Lost in Translation hadn’t come out the same year, this would have been an easy winner for Best Pic of ’03. The wildly imaginative script by John August paired with Burton’s signature way of bringing the barely imaginable to life in some truly vivid ways from a vast field of daffodils to Siamese twins performing in front of a Communist China SEO show makes for a great team that helps to move the plot along even when it starts to drag. There aren’t too many moments where you think, “That’s so Tim Burton,” but this thing’s got spectacle to burn all the same.

But unfortunately, the only somewhat questionable aspect of this movie is the cast.

Don’t get me wrong, Albert Finney is excellent as always as our aging man-for-all-seasons himself, Edward Bloom, (even if he does seem to be acting way older and more decrepit than he looks) and while I’m not a huge fan of Billy Crudup as his son (mainly because of that whole thing where he cheated on his pregnant wife to hook up with Claire Danes for a week, which is so incredibly lame), the real question goes back to whoever casted Ewan McGregor as Edward in his prime. See, Edward Bloom is a Southern boy, Albert Finney can pull off a deep Southern accent, and as much as I love Ewan McGregor, nothing about the guy helps me to bridge a connection between his real-life Scottish roots and Edward’s good ol’ boy pride. I don’t why I never really picked up on this until recently, but McGregor cannot pull off a deep Southern accent.

It’s an easy complaint to keep coming back to throughout the movie because it’s more or less inescapable, but since Edward Bloom is such a great protagonist and his life is so endlessly fantastical, McGregor does well to rise above his oral handicap and throw himself head first into Edward’s lust for life. The great thing about Edward is that even though a lot of what happens in his life probably doesn’t, that’s the big appeal and he makes you embrace the flavor in lieu of the facts.

I don’t know, have you ever just met someone who can turn the most mundane, happenstance occurrences into something bigger and more awe-inspiring than it probably has any right to be? That’s Edward Bloom. He’s mastered the art of story telling and, in a sense, it’s thanks to people like him and the folks who brought him to life that we watch movies in the first place. Stories are universal, stories well-told are timeless, and the life of Edward Bloom sure is one worth hearing.

So, writing about this movie seven years after it was first released and watching it for probably my fifth time this past week, Big Fish isn’t quite the surreal experience it once was, but there’s still so much to absolutely adore about this beautiful journey that it’s hard not to keep falling back in love with it. Up until the final Act, this was hovering at a solid 8, but, man, seeing this for the first time really is something else and hopefully it’ll speak to you on a very familiar level as it continues to do to me. In a world where story more often than not take a backseat to whatever’s gonna land the next sucker and their friends into a repeat viewing of the next Michael Bay masterpiece, it’s great to come across a movie that embraces it through and through. Geez, we need more Edward Blooms in the world.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. nothatwasacompliment permalink
    August 9, 2010 9:29 am

    for some reason, this movie has never had the impact on me that it seems to have on a lot of people. i don’t remember getting choked up or overly moved by it at any point.

    that’s not to say i didn’t like it, but it’s more in the 7/10 range for me.

    of course, it does have alison lohman in it, which is always a good thing.

    • August 11, 2010 10:43 am

      hahaha, Lohman’s good, but she’s just not the same without a gypsy woman drooling into her mouth. the story of how Edward Bloom dies didn’t do it for ya? man, that thing broke me down.

  2. August 9, 2010 11:05 am

    “watching it for probably my fifth time this past week” – wow that’s a lot.

    Watched it a couple of years back. It didn’t leave much of an impression on me…can’t remember much of it now. But I too wasn’t getting choked up or overly moved by it, not like Edward Scissorhands.

    • August 11, 2010 10:38 am

      haha, fifth time since 2003, not one viewing per day or any madness like that.

      Ed Scissorfingers is the better movie, but what can I say, I dig this one. Totally different for Burton though.

  3. August 9, 2010 1:07 pm

    Tim Burton is one of my least favourite directors at the moment and Ewan McGregor never quite convinces me. caught a bit of this once and thought it was sentimental pap, which i usually like. maybe it deserves a proper chance. cant be as good as Frantic though, which was on last night. why isnt Harrison Ford in good movies any more?

    • August 11, 2010 9:33 am

      Never even heard of Frantic, will check that out. This is a strange movie to see out of context in a lot of ways, but great from the start. Give it a shot, homey. Hope you dig it.

  4. August 9, 2010 8:01 pm

    I love this movie, and as bad as McGregor’s accent is, it kind of goes with the absurdity of the whole situation a bit.

    • August 11, 2010 8:48 am

      Good point. Never really noticed it until this latest viewing and it actually kind of added to the whole experience each time beforehand.

  5. Aimée V. permalink
    August 9, 2010 10:49 pm

    So funny, I just watched this movie last week too. 🙂

  6. Ritz (Reviews) permalink
    August 10, 2010 2:13 am

    I am in love with this movie. Every time I watch it my heart strings are tugged and my tear ducts are activated. I am a man and proud of it, I am in love with Big Fish.

    • August 11, 2010 8:44 am

      Ritz, baby, so much love! That final Act sure gets those waterworks going, huh? Real men cry, Ritz. Real men cry.

  7. August 10, 2010 2:47 am

    I love this movie. I don’t know why, I can’t seem to explain why this movie is so good, but it has always been one of my favorite movies and I’m sure that it will keep being one of my favorites. I haven’t seen in it like a year, thanks for the reminder, I’ll probably pop this in during the week.

    • August 11, 2010 8:39 am

      Good man, glad you dig it. One of those movies that’s always worth a revisit. Great stuff.

  8. August 10, 2010 2:15 pm

    I really take issue with the off handed pan of Mars Attacks! I think that could be Burton’s last truly good film — whereas Big Fish lacks something genuine.


    • August 11, 2010 8:30 am

      Geez, guess I need to revisit that one again. Everything I remember about that movie is outrageously strange, like Pierce Brosnan’s head on a dog and Jim Brown punching out aliens, but hey, last time I saw it was in theaters, could be time for another go-around.

  9. August 11, 2010 9:17 am

    only a 9?

  10. August 17, 2010 7:43 pm

    Hum. I’ve heard people praise this film, but it just never came together for me. I think my main issue is that the son is the heart of the story, what the film is trying to reconcile to all these fictional tales and yet he’s hardly in the film at all. I wanted more of him to be in there to give a better sense of drive and purpose to all these tall tales as he tries to make sense of them.

    • September 1, 2010 3:23 pm

      Yeah, Billy Crudup didn’t do a whole lot for me, but his telling the story of his father’s death was great. Idk, thought the father was the heart of the movie all along since he’s the one who had such an awesome life and he was the storyteller. But hey, different strokes for different folks.

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