Reviewed by: Chris Monroe
The Occult—What does the Bible say about it? Answer
Starring: Albert Finney, Jessica Lange, Ewan McGregor, Billy Crudup, Danny DeVito, Steve Buscemi | Directed by: Tim Burton | Produced by: Richard D. Zanuck and Bruce Cohen and Dan Jinks | Written by: John August, based on book by Daniel Wallace. | Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Also see our INTERVIEWS with Big Fish’s cast, producers and writer
As poet Muriel Ruykeyser said, “The world is made up of stories, not atoms,” so, too, “Big Fish” is a fable fused with fiction, not facts, from one man’s life. This whale of a tale entertains with larger-than-life exaggerations, while also inspiring in some of the most meaningful of relationships.
Edward Bloom (Albert Finney AND Ewan McGregor) is such a “Big Fish” that he was played by not one, but two film stars. The basic conflict of the story lies between Edward and his son, Will (Billy Crudup), who believes his dad has never told him anything true his whole life. As a journalist and a soon-to-be father, Will investigates the validity of these stories he has always heard hoping to discover the truth before his father passes away. Most of all, Will just wants to know his dad.
The embellished flashbacks about Edward’s adventures start in his adolescence when he and some friends visit a supposed haunted house occupied by a witch. Edward and his friends each look into the witch’s glass eyeball, believing that when they do, they will see how they’re going to die. When Edward looks into the eye, we are kept from seeing what he sees, which hooks us into this mystery until the end of the film.
The witch is initially presented as overly frightening, but during the brief time we see her, she becomes more of a friendly character to Edward. At one point he mentions that it was from the witch that he got the best counsel. [The Occult—What does the Bible say about it? Answer]
While the idea of a witch character was not appealing, one biblical idea did come to mind in light of Edward’s experience. In Psalm 90:12 Moses prays, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Edward’s seeing of how he would die, becomes a springboard for how he lives the rest of his life. Because he knew, and was not afraid, it gave him a kind of boldness and faith in how he faced life and any troubles along the way.
The potency of the love story between Edward and Sandra (Jessica Lange) was just as poignant as Edward and Will’s relationship. There are similarities to be drawn here with the Genesis account of Jacob and Rachel and how long he had to endure before he finally gets the girl. More than that, the enduring faithfulness Edward keeps to his wife—even during temptation—is another exemplary quality seen in this romance.
As a poetic depiction of Sandra, the “uncatchable woman,” there are a couple moments showing a woman swimming gracefully underwater. She is seen from her backside, and is obviously not wearing anything at all. Keeping her more mysterious, we only see the one side of her, and don’t really see her face or anything else.
An interesting conversation topic that this film could generate revolves around the idea of telling the truth. As a whole, the film is proposing that Edward has been telling his son truth all the time, but on a deeper level. Edward criticizes his son as one who “gets all of the facts with none of the flavor.” The idea is that Edward is communicating emotional truth, and not factual truth. The producers for this film (see Interviews) go into more detail about their ideas behind this.
Production Designer Dennis Gassner (Academy Award winning “Bugsy”, “The Truman Show”, “Hudsucker Proxy”, “Barton Fink”) made more sets for this film than any other in his career. Computer graphics are employed, but a lot of real elements (such as 10,000 daffodils for one scene) are used more. The adventure/fantasy of it all makes it a good match for Director Tim Burton (“Planet of the Apes”, “Edward Scissorhands”, “Batman”) who is also a new father himself.
There is a bit of a crude joke about an affair with the milkman, but most of the language is okay. Finney, McGregor, Lange, and DeVito and the rest give good performances, but the underplaying by Billy Crudup is the strongest of all.
Overall, “Big Fish” is a more family-oriented film that requires a high level of suspension of disbelief, but in the end can be rewarding entertainment.
Violence: Minor | Profanity: Minor | Sex/Nudity: MildYear of Release—2003