Big Fish

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Big Fish
Review (5/10)
(By Brendan Cullin)

In Tim Burton's Big Fish, Edward Bloom (Albert Finney) is a man who has always had the gift for the gab. He is known as a colorful story-teller, a man who is never at a loss for words, but also a man whose stories seem to escape the realm of possibility. His son, William (Billy Crudup) has never warmed up to his father's constant accounts of werewolves, witches, giants, conjoined twins, bank robbers, circus freaks, a Wall Street millionaire and a giant fish and as a result they have not spoke in three years. Not only do the far-fetched stories upset William, he feels that his father's stories have always taken front and center stage in all situations, including at William's own wedding. Eddy seemed more interested in telling these stories rather than ever establishing a true father-son relationship. With his father on his deathbed, William returns to Alabama from Paris to be by his side and try to make sense of the tall tales one last time. The movie features Ewan MacGregor as the younger version of Edward Bloom and also stars the likes of Jessica Lange (Edward's wife Sandra), Alison Lohman (the younger Sandra), Helena Bonham Carter (the witch), Robert Guillaume (Dr. Bennett), Danny Devito (the circus ringleader), Steve Buscemi (Norther Winslow), Matthew McGrory (also known as Big Foot from the Howard Stern Show) and a handful of other actors and actresses. Much of the movie is told via the narration of the southern accent of Albert Finney, while Ewan McGregor does his best southern accent as the younger Edward Bloom.

Big Fish is a visually pleasing movie with a decent cast from top to bottom. The main problem I had with the movie is Bloom's stories never really did it for me. A couple of chapters in his life were interesting - I liked his circus experiences and the story of the love of his life. But other than that, despite the fact that Edward was a charming man with a wonderful outlook on life, his stories were just not inspiring enough to generate any sort of emotion. His journey with the giant? The witch? The bank robbery? His days as a salesman? I kept waiting for the stories to actually go somewhere but they really never did. They all seemed like nothing more than a poor man's version of Forrest Gump. Even then, at least Forrest's stories had some humor or at least some sort of twisted lessons in morality. The stories in Big Fish do generate a few chuckles but if there is some deep, dark lessons to be learned, I certainly missed the boat on this one. His compulsive story-telling is never fully explained. And although there were a handful of likeable characters, none, including Edward Bloom himself, were particularly interesting, motivating or fully developed. Billy Crudup's William Bloom is gloomy and bitter throughout the movie and any sort of redemption or understanding he feels by the end of the movie is too little and too late to make his character interesting in any way. The movie seems to beg for a lesson to be learned and for tears to flow but in the end, it is nothing more than another generally unmemorable trip to your local cinema. Even the usually strong Steve Buscemi doesn't particularly standout this time around.

Big Fish has managed to generate some early Oscar buzz and has already made it to the top ten of many movie fans year-end list. Unfortunately, I have to conclude that this movie is nothing more than a Sunday afternoon rental. Despite the stunning visual effects and set decorations in the movie, it is, at best, an average movie that isn't nearly as interesting, inspiring or magical as it hopes to be. In the end, Edward Bloom's stories left me wanting to hear my own father's tall tales, as long as it meant I would not have to listen to Edward's stories again. And even then, I would never consider fleeing the country to avoid hearing my own father's stories. I think of few of my friends certainly would, but they probably haven't had to listen to Edward Bloom either.

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