Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Poo-tee-weet?

George Wallace, he of A Fool in the Forest, commented in a previous post that he was curious to hear my assessment of Big Fish.

Never one to walk away from a challenge, I will take the bait and give my review of Tim Burton's Big Fish.

Firstly, I liked it. In some ways it was a return to form for Burton after the nice to look at, but trite Planet of the Apes remake, and the also nice to look at, but somewhat pointless Sleepy Hollow. I admit to having a soft spot for Burton and having enjoyed both of those films, but they definitely weren't up to his best work, such as Edward Scissorhands and my personal favorite, Ed Wood. Big Fish has the look that Burton is famous for, but it also has the heart that makes his best movies stand out.

Watching the film, I got the same sort of nostalgic feeling for small time America of the past that I get from certain other books and movies. This is possibly some sort of archetypical memory that all Americans experience, but having grown up in West Hollywood and being the son and grandson of immigrants it is unlikely to be genetic memory. The Hardy Boys and certain Disney live action movies like Polyanna are good examples of the genre. Even better, it also reminded me of the wonderful George Pal film 7 Faces of Dr. Lao.

More particularly and more interestingly this is the magical world of small town America that Ray Bradbury summons in books like Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Burton also seems to share this connection to the past, and the protagonist of Big Fish, Edward Bloom's fantastical life is an homage to this lost world. I also had the feeling of a man "unstuck in time", as Billy Pilgrim of Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, re-lived his life in no particular order, all moments in time being one.

Or perhaps the true inspiration was another Bloom that is famous for his travels.

Billy Crudup mumbles his way through an uninspiring character, and the wonderful Jessica Lange is sadly under-utilized. The film relies a bit too heavily on narration for my taste. But Albert Finney as the elderly Bloom and Ewan McGregor as his younger self are a delight. Along with supporting roles from Danny De Vito, Steve Buscemi and Helena Bonham Carter that are charming and original. The film is fun, nostalgic, and warm without becoming overly sentimental or manipulative. It is a perfect Tim Burton vehicle and well worth a seeing.

Mr. Wallace, the ball is in your court.

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