Big Fish (2003) Poster

(2003)

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8/10
How to create your own legacy...
Michelle P24 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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Lying as an Art Form
Low Man8 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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10/10
Tim Burton's Surprise Heartwarmer
ticdoulouroux16 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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Cohesive and a feast for the eyes
blademalfoy27 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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10/10
A Wonderful Fable About A Dreamer Who Sees the World With Beautiful Eyes
Claudio Carvalho9 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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Movie Magic
PlanecrazyIkarus3 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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10/10
Lyrical.
nycritic10 May 2005
Warning: 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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10/10
Boy Who Cried Wolf!! (Werewolf!!)
edwinalarren19 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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Tim Burton's career equivalent of "Forrest Gump" is an ultimately rewarding adult fable with some beautiful cinematography and memorable ideas...
MovieAddict201618 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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10/10
A wonderful tale about life's magic
Armand27 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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10/10
lacking a strong conclusion???
rossatherton22 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I don't know how you can even say this movie lacks a strong conclusion. This is one of the very, VERY few movies to ever actually make me cry. Can you ask for a stronger conclusion than what we are offered at the end of this? The end ties together everything perfectly, going all the way back to the beginning of the movie! I mean, the fact that we finally get to see what was in the witch's eye (regardless of the fact that it was all made up) is reward enough. Not to mention that we find out throughout the last bit of the movie that not EVERYTHING Edward Bloom told was a lie. All I can say is, the beginning and ending lines about the fish really tie the movie together, despite a few comments from non-fish lovers!!

All in all, one of the top 3 movies I have ever seen!

~R
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Very sweet, imaginative story despite lacking a strong conclusion
bob the moo8 February 2004
Will Bloom feels like he doesn't really know his father - his habit of telling exaggerated and untrue stories instead of the truth. They don't speak for several years until Will hears that Ed is on his deathbed and returns home. He hopes to find out the truth behind the stories but can only get more of the same without doing some digging.

Even having watched the trailer I was unsure exactly what this film was about, but I trusted that Burton's imagination would carry it. Having seen it, the film can best be described as being about story telling in that the film is more about the wonder of the stories told than the actual narrative in terms of start/middle/end. In terms of the traditional idea of narrative, the film is not perfect - it is not as meaningful or as satisfying as I would have hoped, and this is shown in an ending that, although sweet, is not as neat as I would have hoped. However the telling - that's where it is at.

The stories told are wonderfully whimsical and amusing, like the film states the stories have elements of truth but also be coloured by Bloom to add life to them. For me, it was very simple to get involved in the tall tales and I was held in the spell of Ed's stories easily - even thought it never came to a `real' solution I was still captivated by just how sweet and imaginative it all was. If it sounds like I'm having trouble putting my words together it is because I found the film quite hard to quantify - all I know is that I found the whole experience to be very sweet and enjoyable despite it not really amounting to much in the grand scheme of things. In this regard the film is a consistently imaginative fantasy film that is gently humorous and outright funny at times.

The cast are pretty good. I was originally a little put off by McGregor's Alabama accent and it took me a minute to get past it, but other that his performance was very good and he helped create the film's mood of wonder and whimsy. I think both McGregor and Finney needed to have that sort of accent - I don't know why but it is a storyteller's accent and it does help the material. Finney is good and manages to keep the spirit of McGregor's character going despite not being surrounded by the images to support him. The support cast works well whether they be tall giants or well-known cameos from Buscemi, Carter and Devito. Lange, Crudup and Cotillard are all good but it is easily McGregor and Finney's film.

Overall some will find the lack of structure and real substance to be a problem - after all, this is a film about tall tales and not everyone will be able to enjoy that. However this is a wonderfully light and fun bit of whimsy that is a lot better than I expected it to be. While it may not amount to a great deal more than that, it can still be enjoyed for what it is - a great fun story!
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2/10
It has no idea what it wants to be
shecrab10 January 2004
I have to start this by saying that Tim Burton has always been one of my favorite directors. I like his skewed point of view, his Edward Gorey-ish surrealism, his way he will show the not merely odd in his films but also the unpleasant, the ugly, and the weirdly bizarre, and show them in a lovable, accepting manner that makes them sometimes hauntingly fascinating. Instead of that "train wreck you can't look away from" feeling, Burton always leaves you with a voyeuristic sense that makes you want to watch his films more than once, to see the things you missed the first time. Instead of hammering away at the viewer with the weirdness of the characters, Burton lets the personalities speak for themselves; and perhaps this works because his characters have always been inherently likeable.

Not so this time with his latest effort, Big Fish.

To tell this nested set of stories, Burton assembled a cast that is top notch: Ewan McGregor as the young Edward Bloom, Albert Finney as the elderly Edward Bloom, Jessica Lange as Bloom's wife Sandra, Billy Crudup as their son William Bloom; with a host of minor roles filled by such notable performers as Robert Guillaume, Danny DeVito, Helena Bonham Carter, and Steve Buscemi. He even includes folksinger Louden Wainwright III in a not-so-invisible role, for what reason I cannot imagine, and insists on spelling his name incorrectly throughout the entire film's opening AND closing credits. This puzzled me a great deal.

In fact, I was puzzled many times throughout the film, but mostly after, when I should have been nodding and smiling, and not wanting to wait until it came out on DVD; instead, I was itching to leave the theater as soon as possible, and sat there with a distinct frown on my face when it finally ended.

Very /few/ films have made me feel as if I wanted to leave. No matter how bad a film is, I rarely walk out on it. Maybe that was the problem with Big Fish; it really isn't BAD. It's pretty. But it's also hollow. You keep watching, and watching and watching, hoping that it will eventually turn into the film you think it should be, then it ends and you realize it never will.

Basically, the story line is simple enough. Edward Bloom is a storyteller. He tells stories about his own life, and adventures, and entertains for decades with these fantastical tales--first his friends, then his wife, then his own son, William. But as William grows up, he becomes irritated with, then angry about, these "lies" that he was told. He wants to know the "real" father--the one that he can't see for all the stories that he feels act as a smokescreen. Yet, he cannot get any closer to the truth, so he falls away from his father emotionally, until his mother phones him to tell him that his father is now dying.

So William packs his suitcase and pregnant wife and moves back home to help sort out the end of his father's life. Immediately, he is faced with the same stories, the same lies, the same fantastic tales of his father's adventures, and cruelly and selfishly cuts the old man off time after time. He refuses to accept either the stories, OR the magic they contain, and most of all, the fact that they are very entertaining stories. But he is forced to remember the stories, as his father relates them to William's wife, who seems to be entranced by them, and him.

As the stories get told, we are 'treated' to them. ALL OF THEM. These are not SHORT stories. These stories are long, they are convoluted, they have many moments that make you want to question Edward as he tells them, and they contain many many MANY dead ends that lead---and this is the really frustrating part---nowhere at all. And they go on and ON.

For example, take the story about his walk down the "haunted road." Edward ploughs his way through mists, and trees that grab him (literally) and strange sounds and (ick and double ick!!) a HUGE nest of large black jumping spiders (!!) and a town that shouldn't even exist, and these things get barely a mention at all (except for the town.) The entire time, the voice-over is yammering on and on about perseverance. About ANOTHER story that was told earlier. About NOTHING. After several dozen of these sorts of scenes, you are left with a feeling that you are missing the point--if you knew where to look, maybe it would pop out at you. But it never does. Because it isn't there. You are constantly trying to reconcile what you are seeing with what you are hearing.

In fact, if you removed the soundtrack and voicetrack from this film entirely, and just WATCHED it, you'd be so puzzled you wouldn't be able to make sense of the plot--but what you /would/ have was an entirely different impression of what was really happening! This feeling of being pulled in two different directions is not only unsettling, it's highly irritating.

The film has two major flaws in addition to this. First, it is about the South--to be precise, Alabama. There is an ingrained "southernness" about the movie that needs to be there, because there are several references in it that would only make sense in the Southern U.S. Yet, Burton uses three British actors, one from New Jersey, and a New Yorker, and only ONE person has even a HINT of an Alabamian accent. He doesn't go so far as to allow his Brits to speak with their normal accents, but they don't do "Suth'n" either. And neither Albert Finney NOR Danny DeVito speak in consistent accents. Devito wavers from exaggerated hillbilly to his usual "Noo Joisey" intonation, and Finney can't decide where he's from. This smacked of really shoddy dialogue coaching, and did nothing for the continuity.

Second, the film is FAR FAR TOO LONG. It needs a good edit. The pace is snaillike, the acting sometimes seems improvised and directionless. And it just has no idea what it's supposed to be ABOUT most of the time.

There are many little oddities all through the film: a street shown briefly in one scene mirrors one seen in Edward Scissorhands; The 'martial arts' in the Chinese army scene is idiotically choreographed; the "twins" seem to change size in their various scenes, as does the giant. The "banjo man" on the porch in Spectre is not only playing the song from "Deliverance," he IS the young man who played the banjo in "Deliverance!" And why Louden Wainwright? Did Burton owe him a favor? He's no actor. He sticks out like a sore thumb among those who ARE actors.

There are things that make /no/ sense, visually OR plot-wise. Why does the kid steal shoes? Who, or what, is that naked "fish woman?" How can so many barefoot people dancing on grass make so much noise? What's up with the bits about Edward's need for water--about feeling "dry"? (He soaks in a tub, fully clothed!) Even some of the camera angles are downright awkward--as if an amateur camera operator had been given free rein to be as "arty" as he wanted to be.

And probably the weirdest one of all: Tim Burton has made another movie about someone named Edward.

None of these little items, or the other dozens of such things, are explained or illuminated in the film, especially not at the end, when one might expect them to become clear, or at least say why they cannot be clear. They are simply /there/. And they build irritation throughout the course of this very long film, and the pacing is slow, slow, slow. Never have I felt so much like getting up and leaving a film, just to take a break from it all.

This film isn't a fantasy. It's not an allegory. It's not a drama. It's not a comedy. It's not even a decent Tim Burton film! The characters aren't all that likeable or believable; if Jessica Lange had ducked and nodded and smiled ONE MORE TIME in that film, I'd have thrown a tomato at the screen. And NO ONE--I repeat NO ONE--should have to see Danny Devito NAKED, OR repeatedly watch Albert Finney slurping.

I really wanted to like this film. From the previews, it looked like an entirely different film than the one I saw. It looked lighter, more magical, more surreal. Instead, it was a hodge-podge of bad writing, uncertain goals, unexplained events and senseless details. It just didn't gel.
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10/10
Everyone should see this movie
johnny-wales26 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of the 10 best movies I've ever seen.

I live in the South, specifically in Alabama, and the main character captured the essence of the true southern gentleman better than anyone I've ever seen. It reminded me so much of so many fine, upstanding southern gentlemen I've met in my day (like my father), that the movie had me in tears by the end. If you really sit and ponder on the main message of the movie (A fish only grows as big as the pond he builds for himself), it can really change your life. Another strong theme through the movie is that you never know when the crazy stories about the good old days that your elders tell you are true. Sometimes the people you know are greater men than you realize, greater men than you think can really exist in the world. Then one day you look around at your life and you see what they really did, what they really sacrificed and you realize that the greatest among us are those who are there for our friends and family all the time, no matter what the cost, no matter what the mission.

Absolute 10 out of 10, a must-see for anyone who wants to know anything about great movies or great men.
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1/10
sentimental bullhockey
coffeyaddict8 January 2004
Tim Burton has made a number of films I really like (Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, Pee Wee's Big Adventure), but this is not one of them. The son trying to figure out his father is a wholly unlikable character. If I were his dad, I'd disown him. Like everyone else in the picture, he is successful, very clean cut, and middle class. In fact, these words can be used to describe the film in its entirety, and I don't mean that as a compliment.

It's possible that the Burton films I like were carried by quirky actors like Johnny Depp and the young Winona Ryder. As good as he was in Trainspotting, Ewan McGregor has become a dull, middle of the road, mediocre actor. His role in the midst of these extended fantasy sequences is too bright-eyed, too naive to be at all involving or interesting. The only reason I was able to sit through this entire picture was the presence of Steve Buscemi, in a relatively small role.

How a film is able to involve a lot of carny sequences and remain pure as the driven snow is beyond me, but I think the more important question is WHY would a director do this? Tim Burton's film has a very Disney-fied quality to it, everything is squeaky-clean sweetness and love once initial misunderstandings are overcome. There is not nearly enough humor in this film to make it worthwhile. Burton's wide-eyed fantasy world has become unbearably boring.
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4/10
Champagne wishes but catfish dreams
TooShortforThatGesture4 January 2004
Warning: Spoilers
A flat mug of beer that should have been a bubbly flute of champagne

I was very frustrated and disappointed by Big Fish . clearly a lot of time, money and talent went into the production of the movie, but for me it never really came together.

At its center, "Big Fish" is a movie about storytelling. Yet, I think that its fundamental flaw is that its stories are poorly told. The older Ed Bloom is clearly meant to be a delightful raconteur, who charms his wife, his daughter-in-law, friends and acquaintances with his "tall tales." Yet, it's hard not to agree instead when his son accuses him of being an embarrassment after Dad takes the floor at his son's wedding to tell (obviously for the 100th times) his elaborate and version of the story of his son's birth. As played by Albert Finney, Ed Bloom does seem more like the drunken uncle from whom you try to wrest the microphone, than the Aesop (or Garrison Keillor, if you prefer) of his day.

But it's not just Bloom who can't tell a story, sad to say Tim Burton seems to suffer from the same deficiencies as his protagonist. In Burton's hands Bloom's stories seem always to be more about the production design than they are about any human emotion or contact. As always, the LOOK of Burton's film is impressive, but in most of the stories, we have nothing but the design to which to react. The actual people involved are either too flat, or too deliberately odd, for the viewer to relate to. As the younger Bloom, Ewan McGregor stands around with a charming little grin on his face, but with no real connection to the action around him --- he plays Bloom like a genial optimistic idiot. So things like Spectre, Bloom's war service, even his courtship of Sandra all come across as incidents, rather than important emotional points in Bloom's life. We are therefore left feeling much as Will does ---- that Bloom's stories are just so much blarney, being spread by a man who's determined to keep his emotional life hidden.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Because the storytelling is oddly flat, it is difficult for the viewer to participate in the catharsis that Will is supposed to experience at the end of the film. When Will helps his father "finish his story"/finish his life in the last few scenes, obviously we are meant to believe that Will, having learned that there was more fact to his father's stories than one would expect, had somehow emotionally connected to his father after all. But frankly, I don't see how. In most of the stories we are told, Bloom's only "emotional" quality seems to be tenacity --- he's going to marry Sandra, he's going to get home from the war, he's going to fix up Spectre. Emotionally, he seems as indifferent to those he meets along the way -- Norther, Amos, Karl and especially Jenny -- as he seems to be to Will. (Blooms connection to his wife does seem to be the one exception). Certainly, although Bloom is portrayed as a decent fellow, but there is nothing in Bloom's stories, at least as they are told here, that gives us any reason to believe that Will is wrong to find his father distant and unapproachable. Indeed, Bloom seems always to have been a rather self-involved, lucky hack indifferent to those around him and adept at using cheap sentimentalism to get his way with people. Sadly, even when his son is trying to make some sort of deathbed connection, Bloom falls back on the same sort of hucksterism to avoid any real emotion and to coerce Will into participating in a last tall-tale finale.

The sad thing is that I think Bloom's stories were SUPPOSED to draw us in and show us Bloom's emotional depths but fail to do so because they were told wrong. The last couple of Albert Finney's scenes are actually quite good and would have worked wonderfully if they followed a better film. If Bloom's stories were better told ---- i.e., if we were able to feel an emotional connection to his life --- then Will's conversion would be both credible and satisfying and the film would, I think, be a charm.

Miscellaneous asides:

Jessica Lange is wonderful, as always. What a shame she's sort of wasted in this.

With VERY few exceptions, people who aren't from the South just SHOULDN'T attempt southern accents. As usual they are awful and all over the place here.

Nothing is helped by the fact that the "big fish" is crappy CGI and looks fake.
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9/10
This movie reminds me story of me and my father, before he died on cancer
Krystof Bernat10 October 2013
My father was a brilliant sculptor and a great visionary. When I was a kid, I never could explain what he was doing. I got it a month before his death when i was 26. This film filled my eyes with tears, because it reminded me him. he had a lot of ideas and brilliant and original ideas for improving the world, but for all his life he could not sell it to anyone, because those ideas filled his whole day. Literally. His whole apartment was filled with papers. Thank you for this movie. Thank you for the message. I would add a note that when we dream, we are escaping from the world of facts and truths. When my father said that if you think of anything in life, you have to write it down because what comes to your mind it never comes again it changed my life. Now I'm writing a book - a novel from environment of Mesopotamia and that just because my father was someone who believed in imagination and creative values​​.
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10/10
The director- as well as character- as illusionist: a Tim Burton treat
MisterWhiplash14 December 2003
Director Tim Burton is notorious for his inventive, unique brand(s) of images he puts into his films, and a style that seems to regenerate in each film he does (though not always successfully- Planet of the Apes proved that). Now there's Big Fish, a film loaded with visual spectacle, and it shows Burton working an adaptation to his own advantage for the first time in years. Here he tells a story about storytelling, using both make-up, sets, and CGI at his disposal, and it's about one man's own imagination and how he carried it on to others, whether they were delighted by the tall tales or not.

This man is Edward Bloom, played by both Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor, and they both deliver wonderful work here as the dying Bloom still telling stories of adventures and the young Bloom playing them out, respectively. As do Billy Crudup as Edward's son William, who's grown weary of his father telling the story of his birth (involving a catch of a big fish), among many others, and all he wants now at his deathbed is the truth. Jessica Lange is also dependable as Edward's wife Sandy, the love of each other's lives.

What's so alluring about the world Burton creates (based on the novel by Daniel Pierce, which I imagine must be loaded with vivid description) is that he simply builds on the world Edward created for his and his family's amusement. Stories like the visit to the town of Spectre, and that town's most known poet Norther Winslow (Steve Buscemi in one of the film's highlighted supporting roles); the years spent working for nothing in the circus for Amos (Danny DeVito, another note of interest) just to know more about Sandy, whom he sees frozen in time; his stint in the war, etc. All of the people and environments that are reveled are done so with many visual effects, but they're the kind that help build on Burton's vision instead of depleting it. Even if a scene may have dialog or acting that could be taken as over the top, the storytelling is on par with some of Burton's best work (i.e. Batman, Edward Scissorhands, and even the somewhat recent Sleepy Hollow).

The best thing that can be said about Big Fish, even to those who might not like it, is that the journeys and stories taken in the film, by real and 'elaborated' real characters, generate a film as a delight for all ages. That it also has comedy along with drama (grounded in a sense of humanity for both) is also a feat accomplished well by the actors. To me, this is one of the better films of the year. Grade- A
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10/10
One of the best films in the last 25 years
kevin_parks19 January 2005
Big Fish...

What made me watch this film in the first place was solely based on the fact that Pearl Jam got nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Song. That's what got me to the theatre the first time. What made me goto the theatre two more times after and purchase the DVD the second it became available was the greatness of the movie. It's not often that a love story so deep comes along. This movie encompasses two types of love, between a father and son, and a husband and wife. But it's not a sappy romance. How Tim Burton did this, proves how genius he is. Though the movie itself seems so far-fetched, it could not be more real. If you've already seen this movie, and like it, you'll know what i mean. For those who don't know whether or not to watch it brings me to the next point. Someone who doesn't even like the story to this movie, could still love it. It's one of the few movies I can tell people has some of the greatest imagery. Sure, movies these days have cool effects and stuff, but with Big Fish, you will be captivated by the use of colour and parallelism. From the town of Spectre, to the cool carnival, everything is so magical. Now onto two very important things that give this movie the 100% rating i gave it, and why it was nominated for Best Picture at the Golden Globes, Acting and Sound. Surely, everyone knows Ewan McGregor. But it's his supporting cast that make this film amazing. The chemistry between Billy Crudup (William) and Albert Finney (older Edward Bloom) is amazing. Though they have few scenes together, the ones that they do have together are very touching, and again extremely realistic. Jessica Lange (older Sandra Templeton) and up and comer Alison Lohman (Sandra Templeton) suit their respective parts perfect, and they both compliment each other by their characters. They we have the always funny Steve Buscemi (no one could have played his part better) and Danny DeVito who is also incredible in this movie. Helena Bonham Carter also provides a very unique role in this movie... her mystique and subtle beauty suited this movie perfect. Then came sound. A great original score, a fantastic soundtrack and an amazing, and I'll say it again AMAZING original song by Pearl Jam made this whole movie come together in perfection. Elvis Presly, Buddy Holly, and the Allman Brother to name a few of the old school music in this movie are an excellent choice to showcase what time periods we look at in this movie. All in all, Tim Burton, Danny Elfman, and the casts best pictures in my opinion.

Just a side note: Billy Crudup hasn't appeared in many films, but to mention two of his other movies (Almost Famous and Sleepers) seems appropriate. He's casted in some great movies if ya ask me. :)

Thanks
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6/10
Unimpressed
M T9 December 2005
Many people have said how great they found this film, personally it didn't really do it for me.

I thought it was quite sickly actually. Plus points for the special effects; Tim Burton rarely disappoints in that area, but what got me was the obvious way it tried to toy with the viewers emotions, it tried too hard to upset me, and at the end I didn't care, I knew it was manipulating the viewer and I didn't fall for it's narrative tricks. But this isn't about how clever I am, rather, how superficial I found the acting and the writing to be. There were too many clichéd characters, and I suppose that is partly the point of tall tales, but I found it boring.

It's definitely not for everyone, it left me cold and wet. Rather like a big fish.
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1/10
Burton reaches a new low
promich18 January 2005
A really unfortunate waste of a film, chock full of contrived, manipulative, false-sentimentality that would almost, but not quite, make Spielberg blush. Okay, that sounds a bit harsh, but this is bland, un-affecting Hollywood tripe. Burton doesn't insult his audience's emotional intelligence to the Spielbergian degree, but nor does he inspire us the way he once did my sharing his unique vision. This film has the emotional subtlety of a jack-hammer and it contains none of the imaginative wonder of 'Beetlejuice' or 'A Nightmare Before Chritmas.' Sadly, this is what Hollywood/Middle Age can do to a former bright light. The kind of movie that guy from 'Good Morning America' would call 'loads of fun' in one of his lobotomized reviews. Skip it. Skip it. Skip it.
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8/10
Burton Makes A Nice, Light Film
ccthemovieman-124 January 2006
This "fish tale" is generally a nice story about a father who tells tall tales for years to everyone and has a son who has resented those stories, thinking his father was nothing but hot air.

The big pluses for this film were the colorful scenes and the fact that is was simply a nice story. Since this is a Tim Burton film, it's no surprise that the visuals are so entertaining but it is a surprise that the story isn't a dark one. I guess that disappointed a lot of his fans but thought it was a Irefreshing change of pace from him, and I appreciated his effort here. It's the kind of movie many folks wish they made more of today.

The fun parts of the film are not the beginning or ending but the middle in which the dad's stories are brought to life. There are some strange and fun characters. The story is a bit too much New Age/reincarnation mumbo-jumbo but the whole thing is so bizarre that you can't take anything seriously....except the father-and-son relationship, of course, which is meaningful. That may be a bit heavy but almost all the film is a lighthearted fantasy.
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9/10
A son tries to separate fantasy from truth in order to find out who his father is
toretorden22 January 2007
Ed Bloom (Albert Finney), a larger-than-life kind of guy, has always told miraculous stories about his life where fantasy and reality are seemingly interwoven. This has lead to years of alienation from his son Will (Billy Crudup) who feels he never heard the real stories and who doesn't appreciate his father's fantastic tales. When Ed Bloom is on his deathbed, his son returns. Feeling like he never knew his father, he hopes to separate the lies and fantasy in his stories from the truth, hoping to find the true person underneath the tall-tales.

In the movie, Edward Bloom recounts stories from his life. We see the younger Edward Bloom (mostly played by Ewan McGregor) as the main character of these fantastic tales. There are many themes in this movie as they vary with the story being told, but the main theme is the relationship between father and son as his son rediscovers and comes to terms with who his father is.

It's a heart warming, adventurous, funny movie where fantasy and reality go hand in hand and the possible is as likely as the impossible.

To me, this is Tim Burton at his best. Warmly recommended!
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10/10
Easily One of the Best films ever!
Thugster96311 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I've been wanting to see this movie ever since I saw the trailer because it looked good, even though the trailers didn't give much detail about the movie, I still got this feeling that it was going to be good. Well, I was wrong this movie was GREAT! This movie contains everything you would want in a movie comedy, suspense, some spooky elements, and a surprise ending. It certainly is one hell of a film. I don't cry when I see money movies, the last movie I saw that made me cry was Pay It Forward. (hey come on the ending was a heart breaker) But this film just had little moments of sadness that made me shed a tear and a handful of happy moments that made me cry like a baby. I recommend this movie to everyone, I really don't see how anyone couldn't love this movie. 10/10 If I could give it more I would
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Reel Life
tedg28 December 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

Here we have a folded project: a story about storytelling where life is defined in part by fiction. It is by a one time master of folding, peaking with `Ed Wood.' It has key actors who understand folding: Lange (`Titus' and mate of folder Shepard), McGregor (started with `Pillow Book,' then `Moulin Rouge') and DeVito, the purveyor of comic folding in the tradition of Nabokov, most recently in `Death to Smoochy.'

Heaviweights all. The story is a common edition, something between `Baron ` and `Guinevere,' with more than a dollop of Redford's slick, dumb flyfishing-as-life mentality.

The intent was surely to have the `stories' and `real life' overlap, affect each other, and merge like the conjoined twins. If this worked, the labored metaphors would have been fine – we could even have tolerated more. After all, we are dealing with Proust here, the notion that a life is defined by memory – an elaborate life by an elaborate `story.'

But it doesn't work. I think that is because in film we have such a strong tradition of a framing device. That expectation is so strong that when we have two overlapping stories and one `generates' the other, you have to pull some fancy tricks to avoid it falling into a static frame, like Falk in `Princess Bride.'

Burton didn't do this well at all here. This same week, I saw a nearly identically structured project, `Conceiving Ada.' It failed in exactly the same way. The `past' story was interesting and fantastic, where the `present' story was lifeless. This lack of equivalence prevented their intended overlapping.

A real shame. Probably Depp would have helped.

Ted's evaluation: 2 of 3 – Has some interesting elements.
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