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Big Fish

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Went with Tammy, my mom and grandma.

I'm not really a huge Tim Burton fan.  There is a lot of his stuff that to me feels like he's trying too hard to be bizarre.  Things like, the weird instruments that Johnny Depp's character used in Sleepy Hollow.  Or the entire premise of Edward Scissorhands (which I've never seen.)   Other times, I sometimes find his movies terribly slow.  I could barely sit through parts of Batman, and the exposition scenes in Planet of the Apes just seemed to drag on forever.

Having said that, I concede that some of the stuff he does is incredibly imaginative.   I'm not sure how much influence he had on Nightmare Before Christmas, but that's one of my favorite movies, and I can see obvious marks of his style in it.  And I keep forgetting that he did Pee Wee's Big Adventure, which I enjoyed thoroughly.  And his short, Vincent, which is included on Nightmare, is a classic.

So, for me, a Tim Burton movie is an iffy proposition.  But this one was a definite win.

This movie is basically a story about a son who starts out resenting how his father is always trying to be the center of attention.  Usually in the form of tall tales with himself as the main character.  At the son's wedding, the father talks about the day his son was born, but the story is mostly about the father catching the renowned "big fish" in the river that day.  Years later, when the father is on his death bed, the son and his wife go to visit him.  There, the audience gets to hear several of his bigger-than-life ostensibly-autobiographical stories told in flashback.

Things like, the father confronts a giant, and befriends him, and leads him away from the town.  On their way, he spends some time in an idyllic town, where he's tempted to settle down.  But he promised his friend that he'd go with him to explore the world, and so he leaves.  But he promises to come back one day.

He and the giant continue on to join the circus, where he bumps into his future wife.   That's where they got the scene in the preview where time stops, and Ewan McGregor walks through popcorn that's been suspended in mid-air.  Several times throughout the rest of the movie he states that there was only one woman who he loved.  But the father was a travelling salesman, and there are hints that he may have broken his fidelity with at least one woman.

The story maintains a very interesting balance between the fantastical and the prosaic.   For most of the beginning of the movie you're pretty sure that these are nothing but entertaining and entirely fictional tales.  As the movie continues you start getting hints from Jessica Lange's character that there are kernels of truth in many of the tales.  For example, the father really did participate in combat in WW II and was listed as missing for a period of time.

As he learns more of this, and starts investigating some facts that come out from getting the estate in order, he starts to make a personal journey toward understanding his father.  And to appreciate the gift he has in capturing the spriit of the people he's met in his life and their situations in the stories he tells.

On my brother's Total Movie Value Scale, Matinee.  Great use of fantastical special effects.  Fun, diverse characters.  Could see some Burton style choices in there.


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Last modified: June 14, 2004
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