(Release Date: December 10, 2003)
Hey, there are Fantasy Films and then there are films of about every other Genre. While this film surfs bouncingly on the waves of the fantastic this is about as different from, say, The Lord of the Rings as you can get. Look, folks, Neil Peart never thought of this stuff, okay? Big Fish is the fantastic tale of a Father and a Son, the tale of the Big Fish in a Small Pond... the one that got away; it's the tale of Love, Loss, War, Idyllic hideaways, Witches, Giants, Werewolves, Bank Robbery and redemption. Tim Burton owed me one after that last thing he made, and he more than delivers by weaving this rich and beautiful tapestry of a realistic fantasy in a way that no one but Tim Burton (or maybe Zorcon the Conqueror from the planet Amphibiod) truly could.
The Storyteller in Burton's Big Fish is known for regaling his friends, family, and most especially his son with big fish stories and is more entertaining and charming than a Bob Dole Viagra Ad. However, like Little Jackie Paper before him, when the storyteller's son grows up and begins to disbelieve, what's to come of the stories? Can a son really reconnect with a dad so steeped in folklore that nothing ever said really seems true? Ask Puff the Magic Dragon!
The main role of the storyteller, Ed Bloom, is shared by Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney (both with dead-on accents to portray their Alabaman character)! It's impossible not to like Ed as he adventures through time all anchored by the memories of the Elder Ed, his skeptical son Will (Billy Crudup) and Various others throughout his life. Likewise, Ed's one true love (and major character in his tall tales) is his eventual wife Sandra who is played by both Jessica Lange and the excellent Alison Lohman. While it's amazing to see Ewan McGregor looking like a young Albert Finney, the resemblance between Lohman and Lange is positively uncanny! Better casting is harder to find than a Gay Republican, Amigos! The rest of the cast shines, proving the need for the "Best Ensemble Oscar" to be granted on at least a one-time basis. Helena Bonham Carter is both a dream and a nightmare from Ed's life and tales. She's wonderful at any stage. Robert Guillaume is wonderful as Ed's Doctor and family friend, Steve Buscemi is alternately hilarious and weasely as Ed's friend and Poet, Norther Winslow, Marion Cotillard is charming as Will's sympathetic FianceÚ, and all the while Deep Roy, Danny DeVito and Matthew McGrory take up the trail as... well, you'll just have to see. The story belongs to Ed, though, and it's Ed that we love, empathize with, and ride along with on this most Amazing Journey!
While not a "Special Effects Extravaganza" the SFX used here are second to none. They work beautifully in this Princess Bride in the land of Oz film! It's hard to say that this movie could survive without Special Effects, because for something so fantastic, I can't imagine this film without the Glamours, however, the anchor of this film, the blood that vitalizes the Big Fish is the story! You'd better believe that you should watch this space like a hawk watching a Hamster for my review of Daniel Wallace's novel Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions! This novel spawned (pun intended) John August's screenplay, which is funny, exciting, and touching, sometimes all at the same time. This work gives the feel of an imagination-heavy novel that just about any of us would walk away from with our own ideas. Amazingly, Burton and Company bring a convincing imagination to the piece all their own, never telling you what to think, but remaining suggestive enough to entertain and make the viewers feel like players in their own right!
If this movie has any flaw at all, it's that one wishes it were even longer. The Audience is left wanting more, more, more (with a rebel yell). One character's catharsis, though convincing and well handled, could have done with some more denouement to lead to the excellent ending. This is a cheap complaint though, because this really boils down to me just wishing my Big Fish experience was still going on! It's that good. Always leave them wanting more! I can always dream of a DVD Director's Cut!
One more thing, although this is rated PG-13, I encourage parents of Tweens to bring the Kiddos to see this one. The "nudity" warned of actually amounts to the posterior region of one character. There is some suggestion of Eros, however there is no sex. What's more, there is really no Violence to speak of. There is one fist fight scene and one scene set during World War II (during which a major character punches the occasional Axis Flunkie out) but there's no inspiration for the next Drowning Pool single. There are also a few scary scenes but there are a few of those in The Wizard of Oz, not to mention this year's other fish movie! In short, it's a great film that I'd recommend to just about anyone!
Five Stars is the highest rating I award any film and Big Fish earned all five! This is the kind of film old people would call "delightful"; Teens would say was "Awesome, Dude"; Cynics would believe in it; Nerds and popular kids would embrace after it; and Brother Kneumsi calls it the Best Film of the Year! See it! You'll be taken on a wild ride Mr. Toad would Envy from the fascinating beginning to the astonishingly flabbergasting ending that you'll just be dying to talk about. Big Fish covers all the bases... except religion... Talking about religion is just Rude... You never know who you're going to offend!
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