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336 out of 365 people found the following review useful:

How to create your own legacy...

8/10
Author: Michelle P from Toronto, Canada
24 December 2003

I often find that in order to be captivating, a film these days needs to be stressfully suspenseful or have a complicated story line. This film had neither, and yet I found myself hoping it wouldn't end while at the same time, anxiously awaiting its conclusion. I have to admit, I was distrustful of Burton as many of his more recent films have had less-than-satisfying conclusions. Nonetheless, I went to see Big Fish (3 days before its release in Canada) with no expectations and was astounded. This movie is an absolute treat for our hearts, ears and especially our eyes with each cartoon/fantasy-like scene painted with Tim Burton's reliable brilliance and magical touch. Ewan McGregor is pure sunshine and Albert Finney gives one of the greatest performances of the year- he *is* Big Fish. But I suppose that when you strip away the beauty, the doll-house sets and all the abracadabra of cinematography and modern day technology, all you have is a very simple story, and therein lies the heart of this film; that one can create their own legacy, "the story of my life." Not through either extreme of extraordinary adventure or unbelievable lies, but through the art of storytelling- and THAT is what this film is about. It is through our *stories* that we are immortal.

Go see this movie, bring the kids, bring your date, bring your parents! It is for everyone...everyone who appreciates a visually and emotionally beautiful irregular story about a regular person's life.

***** 5 stars!!

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312 out of 364 people found the following review useful:

Lying as an Art Form

Author: Low Man from Lafayette, IN
8 August 2004

What do you say about this movie?

I am at a total loss to describe it. The concept itself, a son tries to come to terms with his dying father that he knows nothing about but an enormous catalog of unbelievable stories, doesn't sound very promising. It sounds like a tired old formula, and I expected such when the rental started playing

It's not.

Werewolves, giants, witches, siamese twins, bank robbers, hidden cities, sirens, etc. are all present in the fantasy, but they seem unremarkably to be part of the life of an otherwise ordinary traveling salesman. Whether they really are or not is never made completely clear, but that's the rub.

I once read a review by Harlan Ellison in which the main point was how a well told lie illuminates the truth in far better clarity than a simple recitation of the facts ever can. At one point in the film, the questing son remarks to his bed-ridden father that he's heard all of his stories thousands of times, and he has know idea who his father really is. The father's reply is, `I've never been anybody but me from the day I was born. If you don't know who I am, that's your failing, not mine.' Later investigations make the point clearer. I'll bet Ellison loved this movie. It is an extraordinary lie.

Did I like the film? You bet. It's Tim Burton's best work without a doubt. Is it for everybody? Probably not. Many will find it confusing and pointless, but good fantasy is like that. All I can say is, relax and let it happen. You won't regret it.

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190 out of 227 people found the following review useful:

Tim Burton's Surprise Heartwarmer

10/10
Author: ticdoulouroux from Virginia
16 February 2004

I approach Tim Burton films with a certain trepidation. Will it be "Edward Scissorhands" or "Batman II?" With Burton you could get a quirky comedy, a dark thriller, or sweet morality tale. And there's always the possibility of Danny DeVito chomping down on a raw fish.

"Big Fish" combines Burton's unusual humor with a heart-wrenching story of a father-son deathbed reconciliation. Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor share the role of Ed Bloom, one of the big fish from the movie's title while an SUV-sized catfish plays the other. Bloom is a metaphorical and literal big fish in the small pond of Ashton, Alabama in this tale told mostly through flashback. Jessica Lange plays his wife and Billy Crudup plays the son, Will, estranged from his father for the past three years. Father and son are reunited as Finney lies dying of cancer.

Ed Bloom has spent his life spinning his personal history into mythological proportions: an early encounter with a very tall man becomes a battle with a house-sized giant; a rural village is depicted as heaven on earth; military service during the Korean War morphs into a behind-the-lines mission that would make Duke Nukem proud. Originally a true believer, Will now knows everything his father has told him was not just an exageration or even a tall tale but an outright lie. In his effort to understand the truth behind his father's stories he learns to love the man as well as the mythology. And Burton delivers a terrific punchline at the end of the film that left me both tickled and weeping, a truly weird emotional state.

Burton deals with mythic themes in "Big Fish." Besides the surface story of the generational tension between father and son he explores the metaphor of the big-fish-in-a-small-pond by examining the impact Ed Bloom has had on the lives he's touched in his workaday contacts with colleagues, customers (he's a traveling salesman), and people in the small towns across the South. Not exactly "It's A Wonderful Life," he still manages to show how all of us -- even the little fish -- have profound effects on the people around us. And of course love -- unrequited and reciprocated -- control almost all of Ed's many adventures.

The acting is wonderful. You will actually believe two Brits and a Scot (Finney, Helena Bonham Carter, and McGregor) are natives of small town Alabama. Lange brings dignity and brio to the role of the long "suffering" wife -- and she still looks great(!)-- you believe she has had a long and loving life with Finney/McGregor. DeVito is a delight in the role of a circus ringmaster. But the scene-stealer is Bonham Carter in the dual role of Jenny and the crone witch.

I rated this movie ten stars and when you see it you'll do the same.

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147 out of 176 people found the following review useful:

Cohesive and a feast for the eyes

Author: blademalfoy (bluehippogriff@hotmail.com) from California
27 December 2003

I've had high hopes for this movie since I first heard about it some time ago. After all, most of the Tim Burton movies I've seen (barring Planet of the Apes) have been really wonderful. To say the least, Big Fish did not disappoint me. The story - by no means complex or suspenseful - was simple enough to allow the viewer to really take in the fantasy and mythology in Edward Bloom's tales. One didn't need a surprise ending or secret identities to make this film enjoyable. Rather, it was the simplicity and universal nature of the story that made it interesting. While some reviews have mentioned that the film can seem choppy at times, I didn't see this at all. The transition seemed smooth and logical, and while sometimes I found myself wishing for more scenes of younger Edward Bloom, I never felt bored by any of the movie. Nothing seemed to 'drag'. I was also quite impressed with the quality of acting in nearly the entire cast. Billy Crudup didn't really hit his stride until the end, but he was tolerable through the first three-quarters of the movie. Albert Finney did a great job of portraying a lion on his last legs, bigger than his body but unable to show it. Jessica Lange was amazing and added the emotional oomph that Billy Crudup often failed to provide. And while Ewan McGregor's role was not particularly difficult, at no point did he overplay the character, and his accent (to my ear anyway) never slipped. Though this wasn't as dark as Sleepy Hollow or as bizarre as Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice, Big Fish definitely had the Tim Burton touch in its scenery. The colors - whether dull for Elder Bloom's time or bright for Younger Bloom - matched the mood perfectly, and everywhere you looked (especially in Bloom the Younger's timeframe) there was something else to marvel at. Tim Burton fans will not be disappointed.

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126 out of 157 people found the following review useful:

A Wonderful Fable About A Dreamer Who Sees the World With Beautiful Eyes

10/10
Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
9 January 2005

Will Bloom (Billy Crudup) is informed by his mother Sandra Bloom (Jessica Lange) that his father Ed Bloom (Albert Finney) is terminal, and he travels with his French pregnant wife Josephine (Marion Cotillard) to his parents' home. Will and Ed have broken relationship three years before, because of the imaginative and fantasized stories told by Ed Bloom about his accomplishments in his youth. Will tries to find the true story of the mysterious life of his father, coming to a surprising discovery in the end.

I am a great fan of Tim Burton, and I really believe that "Big Fish", together with "Ed Wood", are his best works. Beginning with a wonderful and very optimistic fairytale in a magic screenplay, about a very supportive storyteller and dreamer, who sees the world with beautiful eyes. The selection of the cast is another point to be highlighted: the resemblance between the outstanding actress Alison Lohman, from "White Oleander" and "Matchstick Men", and the still very gorgeous and also excellent actress Jessica Lange, is amazing. Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney are also a great choice for the role of Ed Bloom. Although having a convincing performance, Billy Crudup is in a lower level of performance, when comparing with the rest of the cast, which has names such as Helena Bonham Carter, Steve Buscemi and Danny DeVito. "Big Fish" is the type of movie good to be seen many times. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "Peixe Grande e Suas Histórias Maravilhosas" ("Big Fish Abd His Wonderful Stories")

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95 out of 124 people found the following review useful:

Movie Magic

Author: PlanecrazyIkarus from Wales, UK
3 February 2004

Every other year you get a movie that oozes magic and charm. Think "Chocolat". Think "Amelie". Think "What dreams may come". Perhaps even, "Being John Malkovich". And this year, it's time to think big... "Big Fish", to be precise. All four of these movies have some things in common. Merely describing the premise is not nearly enough to do justice to the mood of the film. And the mood, the emotional reaction of the audience, is in many ways much more important than the actual content. Still, there's no way around it in a proper review: We meet a disillusioned young man and his father, a charming old guy who knows exactly how to tell stories to fascinate first-time listeners and children. Unfortunately, there's barely any of those left, as he retold his magical stories once too often. When his health and life are beginning to fade away, his son wants to finally learn the truth about his father. Meanwhile, we hear his life story, as he tells it... Tim Burton is probably best-known for visual eye candy movies. Few directors can compete with the imagination he's shown in movies like Batman, Nightmare before Christmas and Sleepy Hollow. Outside the realm of darker, more gothic visuals, Tim Burton has so far been somewhat less prolific. Planet of the Apes was an expensive embarrassment, and Ed Wood is a decidedly acquired taste. Big Fish, then, is a new direction for him. Yes, it is eye candy, or perhaps even eye H"agen Dazs. But this time, the movie has much more of a soul than his monkeyplanet. This soul is achieved by two means: a great story (or collection of stories) and great acting. If you don't believe that the story is great, watch the audience. At key moments, everyone was chuckling or laughing, at others, I heard dozens of sniffs and tissues being unpacked around me. Yes, this is heartwarming stuff that a colder, more cynical soul would call cheese. Finally, Burton has found a story worthy of his talents again. And, better yet, he did not forget to encourage his cast to act. For a case study of such failure, see Christina Ricci's completely flat performance in Sleepy Hollow. In Big Fish, the cast is so carefully selected that failure is simply not an option. Ewan McGregor (playing the father in his youth) may not have much more to do than smile, be charming and sustain a Southern US accent, but he does it brilliantly. Much more important are the performances of Albert Finney and Jessica Lange, playing the aged father and mother, respectively. And they both deliver character performances worthy of prizes.

After cheerleading so enthusiastically for this movie, perhaps it is time to take a step back and look at it from a more critical perspective. Yes, it managed to enchant the audience, but it did so the Hollywood way. Special effects and big budget feature heavily. This is in stark contrast to the seemingly much less organized and much more intuitional charm of Amelie. This movie is also much more comfy about its pace - it takes its time just like a good storyteller would, but perhaps leaving behind the five-second-attention-span MTV generation kids in the process. On the other hand, I am tempted to say that its biggest vice is that there just isn't enough of it. Given the episodal structure of this movie, I can almost imagine what it would have felt like as TV series, or multi-part TV movie. I am not sure whether to wish for this to happen or shudder at the thought of "Big Fish: The Animated Series" or some such atrocity. Every story told in this movie is perfect, and a series of such perfect stories would be wonderful. Yet can perfection be sustained for a large number of stories? Either way, I wonder what is going to become of Big Fish - a franchise or a single movie. It definitely is more deserving of praise, awards and viewers than any other movie released during the past six months, including LOTR-RotK.

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113 out of 160 people found the following review useful:

Boy Who Cried Wolf!! (Werewolf!!)

10/10
Author: edwinalarren from United States
19 October 2005

"A BIG FISH in a small pond!!!" the phrase applies to a typical local yokel who better not leave his sequestered Podunk town or else he is in for a rude awakening!!.. Venturesome as though he may be, Ed Bloom leaves his Mayberry, joins the circus, and decides to fall in love...True love comes along less than once in a lifetime...The intuition for true love in this movie is succinctly illustrated through a dark angled idealism, and suddenly, problems with falling in love are romanticized by a myriad of quirky determination patterns, as well as utterly human shortcomings!!. Married, having a son, a house, etc, etc, etc and so on and so on and so on and so forth and so forth and so forth, pans out to whereby his emeritus years become those of expounding dissertation about his exciting dare devil nefarious life as an impervious adolescent.. Spinning Yarns? We know better!!...Try telling his son that...Too incredible!! Too spectacular!! Too heroic!!...Ed Bloom's blindly motivational love and devotion towards the woman he cherishes, makes Romeo and Juliet's relationship seem platonic... Crazy dreams, the supernatural, and negligence of compassion via the compelling illustration of the cold cruel world, make Big Fish a reality as far as being a five star film!!

In the end, Big Fish shows how the aspect of positive human nature prevails, and how a person's life is intricate and meaningful!! The impact your father has on you is indelible, and recognition of unconditional love for your family, and the people around you, manifest themselves in many distinguishable ways, all of them being indispensable!! Ed Bloom is the picture-book example of how exaggerations and erroneous behavior in your life are an integral part of your existence!! You have realized you are fortunate to be human because you are not perfect, the adjective perfect is for calculators, Hallmark Cards, and martinis after work...Ed Bloom had an anything but John Doe in an orange crate funeral.. A numerous cross section of socially diverse individuals had a grass roots recognition of who Ed Bloom was, in that sense, Ed Bloom died a very rich man!! Big Fish was a melting pot of proclivities and acute misconceptualizations that established a colorful obituary as being the ultimate trophy we can be the recipients of for our agenda here on earth!! More significantly, the aggregate affection, as well as the life experiences all of the characters in the movie have had, and would not trade for a million dollars, is something that this film brilliantly portrays, by way of a hail Mary pass that winds up being the game winning touchdown!!.. It was this convoluted philosophical disposition that "Big Fish" so perfectly executed that puts this film in the category as one of the best films ever produced. Expediting faulted emotions is a sink or swim endeavor, and, in this case "Big Fish" swam, (No pun intended) Metaphorically, all of these accolades are a way of saying that the ending to this film was very powerful and cohesive...surprisingly and effectively so!! I give Big Fish a five star rating, and a perfect 10!! This website ranks it as one of the top 250 films ever made!! I totally concur!!

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96 out of 143 people found the following review useful:

Tim Burton's career equivalent of "Forrest Gump" is an ultimately rewarding adult fable with some beautiful cinematography and memorable ideas...

Author: MovieAddict2014 from UK
18 February 2004

It was either "Cheaper by the Dozen," "The Haunted Mansion" or this. I didn't exactly feel like watching my favorite comedian run around with a horde of little kids cracking bad poopy jokes behind them, and I didn't want to see Eddie Murphy do this either (it was bad enough in last year's "Daddy Day Care"), so I chose to see the more adult-oriented of these three films, and I'm glad I did, because Tim Burton's "Big Fish" is a marvelous film--full of wit and imagination and eerie vibes that sometimes don't fit into Burton's films the way he wants them to--but actually have a purpose here.

"Pee Wee's Big Adventure" is simply one of the best films of all time, and you can quote me on that. That was Burton's breakthrough--then came "Batman," which was very good but slightly lacking in substance, and then came "Edward Scissorhands"--one of my sister's favorite films, a beautiful love story and an eerie fable...but just missing a very small ingredient that kept it from becoming a great movie (perhaps the same with his film "Ed Wood"--a very good film, but not exactly one of my all-time favorites).

I have my doubts as to whether anyone other than Tim Burton could have pulled off "Big Fish." Here's a movie I expected I would dislike and come away feeling a little bit empty--but that's only partially true. The movie doesn't quite exceed on the level it tries to, but as a film, it's one of the best motion pictures of the year.

It stars Albert Finney as Edward Bloom, an old man who loves to exaggerate tales of his past and pass these on to his friends and family. One night his son, William (Billy Crudup), tires of hearing the story about how he caught the town's largest fish in a lake using a gold ring--so he ignores his father for three whole years, until his mother (Jessica Lange) informs Will that his father is dying of cancer, and that he wishes to speak with his son one last time.

Drawn back to his old Alabama hometown with his new wife, Will finally learns the truth about these so-called "exaggerated" stories--and we, as the audience, get to see them in flashback mode. It begins with a young Edward (Ewan McGregor), a "big fish" who was just too small for his own town and had to move away to search for brighter prospects. On his journey he comes across an assortment of odd fellows, including a "Gentle Giant," a failed poet living in a heavenly town named Spectre, and a strange circus ringleader who also happens to be a werewolf.

All of these stories that Edward Senior tells his family relate to their current positions, and to call the film simply beautiful would be what John Candy once said is "the understatement of the year." My particular favorite character was the poet living in Spectre, played by Steve Buscemi (a wonderful supporting actor), who I had no idea played any role in this film prior to viewing the opening credits and seeing "with Steve Buscemi" appear on screen.

Buscemi's poet has been working on a particular poem for twelve years whilst living in Spectre. "Can I see it?" asks Edward. It says, "Roses are red, violets are blue, I love Spectre." "But it's only three lines long!" says Edward. "That's the reason you don't show your work to people," Buscemi says.

Danny DeVito also appears as the circus ringleader, and the most regretful scene in the film is that in which we see him naked from behind. I shudder at the thought. But, for what it's worth, DeVito's second re-teaming with Burton is magnificent--he's a supporting character, but the film certainly benefits from his performance.

Like all of Burton's films, "Big Fish" teeters on the edge of greatness, but it never quite crosses the line. This is a marvelous film, full of warmth, kind-hearted fables and beautiful cinematography, and it's one of the best films of the year. It's certainly a unique film experience unlike any you've ever had before. Unless, of course, you've seen "Edward Scissorhands" or "Ed Wood." Then some of it may look a bit familiar.

Still, I enjoyed it more than "The Lord of the Rings." And I could actually relate to this film.

Trivia note: "Edward Scissorhands" was a Tim Burton film. The main character of this film is named Edward. Sometimes when people pronounce his name with their thick Alabama accents it comes across as "Ed Wood." Mere coincidence or something more? We may never find out.

4.5/5 stars.

- John Ulmer

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60 out of 88 people found the following review useful:

A wonderful tale about life's magic

10/10
Author: Vincentiu from Romania
27 January 2007

Subtle, delicate, touching and fascinating pledge for the life as fruit of dream. About the ambiguous taste of imagination and about existence like a spectacular trip. About desire and reality like warm bread.

The director of "Big Fish" is Tom Burton. It is only decent definition of a film -mixture between childhood and small miracles, about a special image of ordinaries gestures and about hope in eccentric aspects. The texture is same of grandmother's tales in Christamas Eve or Sunday morning. A brave hero, strange village, temptation and huge love, success and discoveries, miracles and public,secret sense of life and courage. So, in many cases, the reality is only boring passage and the dream, the childish game, the sound of angel's voice or the strange facts are heart of magnificent act of contemplation.

It is a moral story but, in same measure is source of a way to look the world. The life is not a punish or bag of routine. The faith is not only part of a relation with God but with yourself. The others are, in great measure, parts of funny miracle and ineffable expectation.

The Ewan Mc Gregor acting is brilliant. Nuances, accents, inflexion of words, smile or gestures are bricks of a magnificent character, touching, warm, credible. In some moments, the film is spectacular dialog between McGregor and Albert Finney interpretation.

In fact, "Big Fish" is a tale. A fairy tale about life's magic out of words or exterior facts.

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39 out of 49 people found the following review useful:

Lyrical.

10/10
Author: nycritic
10 May 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Tim Burton continues to demonstrate his maturation as a director despite having a soft spot for the fantastic and the weird.

It's probably not a surprise that this film would receive generally mixed-to-good reviews but was virtually ignored by the Academy. It's a little too visually eccentric for its own good and that somehow translates as a film that uses beautiful images as its means to tell a story, and that in 2003 was not quite the type of movies that were being told with the exception of LORD OF THE RINGS which in itself is a triumph of effects serving a story, albeit deeply rooted in fantasy, but not too dissimilar to this one.

Tall tales are a part of Americana. Here they come under the guise of hilarious situations and extremely poignant, compassionate moments. Essentially, this is a humanist fable dressed in deep, poetic magic realism, because it's the story of a man who is dying and who has one last thing to do.

This man is Ed Bloom (Albert Finney), and he's over the years become estranged from his son William (Billy Crudup) because William has gotten increasingly jaded from these tall stories Ed tells him over and over again. We can call it the syndrome of someone who has lost touch with his inner self and has accommodated himself to the norms of Society and what It considers "normal" and "acceptable."

In his last days he recollects his memories from his much younger days (played by Ewan McGregor) when he hadn't found his calling until he came across a witch (Helena Bonham Carter) who foretold him his future. From then on he had what can be called a "hell of a life," going from seemingly implausible adventure to another. These exaggerated tales infuriates William until a crucial event forces him to acknowledge the essence of the matter -- Ed Bloom's reality -- and in one overwhelming tour de force of direction, William (clumsily at first, but then more sure of himself) creates his own storytelling, which I won't talk about. Suffice it is to say that its transition into reality is one of the most beautiful and moving sequences I've seen.

This is by far one of the best films Tim Burton has made in his curriculum of offbeat films. Solid performances are in leaps and bounds from the main actors to minor players -- the sad expression of a circus clown who has to shoot Ed because the wolf he is about to kill is actually Amos Calloway is a haunting shot, for example. Jessica Lange's quiet scene in a bathtub filled with water, hugging Ed and weeping. Alison Lohman caught in a frozen moment of time, which enhances her beauty. The moment when William re-enacts his own story and "carries" Ed out of the hospital which segues into the otherworldly, emotional climax. A beautiful ensemble piece, with otherworldly images, this is only second to LORD OF THE RINGS, a distant cousin, in absolute beauty and simplicity of its message.

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