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Big Fish

Big Fish on DVD

At some point in their lives, everyone has had one of those friends who tells stories that you know can’t possibly have happened. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some ounce of truth to the whole thing.

Big Fish is about Edward Bloom (Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor), a very likeable man and a teller of tall tales. He spent his young life in a series of fantastic adventures, and his later life talking about them. In fact, he loves talking about them so much, he seems to have forgotten all about his family.

When William was born, Edward was off catching a fish (the one that got away); when William got married, Edward stood up and told his stories, of which William is a mere footnote. William is very upset about the whole thing, causing he and his father to stop talking to each other for three years.

But when William gets word of Edward’s illness, he flies home and breaks the vow of silence. He decides to try and make amends, and give his father a chance to tell the real versions of his stories. But Edward would rather tell his own versions to the people who haven’t yet heard them.

From the day he was born, Edward has seemed destined for bigger things. From his successes in sports, to his confrontation with a 15-foot tall giant, to his rescuing a small town from extreme deterioration. Edward is a caring, lovable man, and it’s unfortunate that his own son is the only person unable to see it. It takes the entire movie for the kid to pull the stick out of his butt and recognize who his father is.

Big Fish is a Tim Burton movie all the way. It takes a good story, adds a great visual style and an equally great cast, and creates a wonderfully charming movie that leaves you feeling good.

Ewan McGregor is delightful as the young Edward Bloom, a likeable and determined fellow with dreams of bigger things. Albert Finney seems a good choice to play the elder Bloom as well, since he also does such a good job of being likeable. Billy Crudup is appropriately bland, and Jessica Lange (getting on but still beautiful) is perfect as Edward’s wife. It also features amusing performances by Steve Buscemi and Danny DeVito, both doing what they do best.

The film has elements of just about every genre there is, and it does a good job of jerking your heartstrings. I’m not ashamed to admit that I nearly cried at the end, which is sad, happy, and perfectly appropriate (the ending, not the fact that I nearly cried!).

Though it will draw comparisons to Forrest Gump, Big Fish is a great film that can be enjoyed by pretty much everyone. Tim Burton brings his trademark style to an already fine movie, and the end result is a Tim Burton movie worthy of being a Tim Burton movie. Very highly recommended.

On a budget of about $60 million, the movie raked in about that much at the box office.

The DVD presentation is pretty good, but could have been a lot better. The video is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and looks pretty muddy for a good portion of the film. Color looks ready to run during the older scenes, and detail is less than spectacular. The newer scenes look better, but still not great. Normally, I might say that the lesser quality flashbacks might work well, but with such a visual movie, it’s not a good choice.

Audio, in Dolby Digital 5.1, is quite a bit better. Surrounds are used effectively in certain scenes (such as the ones with the giant), and the dialogue and other sound effects are separated very well. The Oscar-nominated score by Danny Elfman is fairly quiet for the most part, which is unfortunate, because it’s a good score.

Tim Burton provides an audio commentary for the film, and while he does have a lot to say, he’s not the most engaging speaker. There are also seven featurettes totaling about 53 minutes, but only about half of them are worthwhile. The first few are just extended advertisements, but the later ones actually discuss the production design, visual effects, casting, and Tim Burton’s career.

“The Finer Points” is a quiz about Tim Burton’s movies, and even if you’re as big a Tim Burton fan as I am, it’s pretty hard. Complete the quiz and you get a two-minute featurette that’s completely useless.

Big Fish, from Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment
125 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange with Steve Buscemi and Danny Devito
Produced by Richard D. Zanuck, Bruce Cohen and Dan Jinks
Screenplay by John August, Directed by Tim Burton


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