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"Big Fish"

Directed by Tim Burton.
Written by John August.  Based on the novel by Daniel Wallace.
Starring Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney and Billy Crudup.
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  12/30/03


Kind of like John Woo, I see anything that Tim Burton puts out.  Actual fact:  Burton co-produced “Cabin Boy”, which was until “Hard Vice” the worst film I had ever seen.  With both directors, I have experienced many highs and lows; with Burton, my high is still “Batman”, but I still cringe at “Planet of the Apes”, his most recent effort.  What does all of this mean?  Two things:  yes, I will be seeing Woo’s “Paycheck” because I simply have to, and “Big Fish” is a good film that combines almost anything you have seen in Burton’s other films and gives it strong dramatic backing thanks to the book on which the film is based.

The story of “Big Fish” follows Edward Bloom from the time he is 18 until he is much older; the younger Edward (Ewan McGregor) is the biggest thing in a small town in Alabama, and by the time he is 18 he’s the best looking, most athletic, most intelligent, most...anything guy in town.  At least, that’s the picture painted by the modern-day Edward (Albert Finney), who often tells his son Will (Billy Crudup) about his outlandish adventures as a young’un, including how he met his wife (Jessica Lange), how he met a giant (Matthew McGrory), how he joined the service, and how he teamed up with Chinese twins (Ada & Arlene Tai) to fight his way out of a stage show.  Will has spent his whole life listening to these crazy stories, and as his dad fights for his life due to a medical ailment, Will searches for some truth as closure to his troubled relationship with his dad.

The best thing about “Big Fish” is that the logic behind why the two men want what they want makes perfect sense.  Edward enjoys telling tall tales, and his reasoning behind this becomes increasingly clear as the film goes along; Will, thinking that his father’s life has just been a lie since he was able to figure out that men are normally not ten feet tall, wants to know if anything his dad has been telling him has even a shred of truth behind it.  The performances by both Finney and Crudup are both great, mostly because they are so believable.  I can’t say I have any relatives that have told tales to me nearly as crazy as Edward does in the movie, but I (like many of you) have an uncle or two that took me aside when I was younger to try and wax poetic about something that happened to them.  That makes “Big Fish” all the more entertaining if you have someone like that in your life.

Visions like the setting of Spectre, Alabama in the film are classic Burton; the look of “Big Fish” resembles much of the look of earlier Burton works like “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” and “Edward Scissorhands”, or even a couple of the sequences from “Ed Wood.”  Another Danny Elfman score makes you feel right at home, and past Burton employees like his girlfriend Helena Bonham Carter and Danny DeVito keep you warm at night.

Damn, this is a good movie.  I’ll admit, though, later in the film, I felt myself itching to look at my watch, and I was surprised later to see that the film was only about two hours long; a couple of the young Edward flashbacks were too much for me.  But, the ending came back and left me quite satisfied.  Good times, people, good times.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09