Studio: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment
Film Year: 2003
U.S. Rating: PG-13
Canadian Rating: PG
Rated for: for a fight scene, some images of nudity and a suggestive reference
Film Length: 125 minutes
Genre: Fantasy Drama
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (anamorphic)
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, French 2.0 Surround
Subtitles: English, French
Closed Captioned: Yes
Release Date: April 27, 2004
Film Rating: /
Starring: Ewan McGregor & Albert Finney (young and older Edward Bloom), Billy Crudup (Will Bloom), Alison Loham & Jessica Lang (young and older Sandra Bloom), Matthew McGrory (Karl)
Also starring: Danny DeVito, Steve Buscemi, Helena Bonham Carter
Directed By: Tim Burton
Writer: John August (Screenplay), Daniel Wallace (Novel)
An Adventure As Big As Life Itself
With Tim Burton directing this film, I was ready for a two-hour ride of watching unnatural environments, distorted characters, and a dark visual style that has always made his films so intriguing. Who can dispute his past films like Beetlejuice, Batman, and Edward Scissorhands are masterpieces of its kind? His direction and participation in other films like Mars Attacks!, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Sleepy Hollow are also noteworthy of popularity for his style. Every time I hear a film is in the works by Tim Burton I get excited. Who can’t be excited? I know there are a few people who haven’t found his work attractive to them, but it is safe to say that directors like Mr. Burton keep the film industry going by making people go out to watch a film that is visually different, yet so captivating in its delivery.
Aside from the upcoming film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (still in pre-production, and having read the book long ago, I can’t imagine any better director for this project than Burton), Big Fish is the latest delivery from Tim Burton. His style is intact – there are scenes of ghastly images of the town witch and the peculiar characters of the circus and carnies. These are all a part of the larger-than-life stories told by our main character, Edward Bloom. Eddie Bloom was a boy who proved he was too big for his town. He grew up as a brave boy doing what no kid dared to do. As a teenager he was the town hero of all sorts of athletic teams and was envied by many. Outspoken, he always knew the right thing to say at the right time to the right person. For all of this, Eddie Bloom was a big fish in a little town and the world was waiting for him.
At the start of his adventure he travels with Karl the Giant, a tall man who he talked into leaving the small town with him. A division in the road temporarily divides the two of them and Eddie is chased by bees and led through jumping spiders before reaching the surreal town of Spectre, where everyone is disturbingly overly happy. From having a feeling he will be forced to stay, he leaves Spectre continues on to be almost devoured by a forest before working in a circus where he sees a girl he’s determined to marry. Life goes on with fighting a werewolf, a boy from the past, the Vietnamese in the War, and assisting in a robbery. The stories of Edward Bloom are as unreal as the man himself.
In parallel to Burton’s grotesque style (admittedly is tame in this film) is the human element to this film. The characters have depth and meaning as the story carries along. Karl the Giant is as kind as can be, Spectre and its inhabitants are about as eerie as perfect can be. And Edward’s son Will, who is trying to reconcile with his father’s past, is about as convincing as any actor can get. As a viewer I can clearly see the anguish he has regarding his father’s over-the-top stories. All of his life he’s been told stories from his father’s past by his father. As he grew older, the stories became less convincing and it became very difficult to separate the man from the myth, fact from fiction. Edward is unable to tell any other story to his son, and frankly his stories are who he is. But we learn early in the film Edward is dying and that makes Will’s cause to find the truth more important to him. The story of Big Fish revolves around a father-son relationship as Will searches for answers. This element of contemporary society is new to Burton’s work, but he does it flawlessly. I have no doubt that many viewers will find commonalities between themselves and the characters on screen. Some people like to take fact and make some fiction from it to the point just before it becomes fantasy. Are they lies or merely entertainment of the factual truth? Big Fish is an sweet-natured representation of a man who lives by his stories and a son who tries to read the pages of his father’s past.
VIDEO QUALITY /
Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the stylized picture is almost perfect. With only a touch of oversaturation in the colours (that is intentional for many parts of the film), there is excellent contrast between blacks and whites, detail and depth. Compression artifacts are kept to a minimum as I never even saw them at all during the viewing of this film, and edge enhancement is a non-issue again! This is an excellent transfer mastered in High Definition that shows off all of Burton’s stylized imagery and the sometimes soft photography by cinematographer Philippe Rousselot. Well done!
AUDIO QUALITY /
The Danny Elfman score is once again a delight to hear along the path of a Tim Burton film. This DVD shows off the clarity and detail of the score that is expansive and dynamic. Encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1, the soundtrack is pleasing to hear. The soundtrack shows off the split-surround capability of the multi-channel audio experience with full use of the 5.1 palette. Imaging is pretty good between each speaker location, and bass level is adequate for the few areas of the film that need it (like Karl’s footsteps). Much of the film is dialogue too. It’s restricted mostly to the centre channel and doesn’t offer much more room ambience in the other speakers, but its always understandable, especially when listening to the young and loud Edward Bloom. You’ll never miss a charming line.
SPECIAL FEATURES /
Loaded with featurettes, there are about 50 minutes in special features. All of these featurettes are in 4:3 and DD2.0 stereo. Each of the featurettes is pretty simple actually, and the title of them explains what they are about. They are quick and to the point like any featurette should be. Like in my review of Mona Lisa Smile, the only complaint I have with the featurettes is the attention given to playing long (or just repeating over an over) scenes from the film rather than giving me new information. Sure, there are some behind the scenes footage and snippets of interviews from the cast and crew in each of them highlighting the topic in discussion, but I’m just not crazy about seeing clips of the film over and over again in featurettes. It takes away from the quality of the featurette as well as making it boring at times. Nevertheless, there is plenty of new information too as they are laid out in this order on the disc:
The Character’s Journey
-Edward Bloom at Large (8.45) …an about regarding the main character.
-Amos at the Circus (4.37) …regarding DeVito’s character.
-Fathers and Sons (7.20) …regarding the relationships children have with their parents.
The Filmmakers’ Path
-Tim Burton: Storyteller (6.44) …featuring the casts’ perspective on the filmmaker.
-A Fairytale World (9.32) …featuring the witch, giant, Spectre (fantasy elements)
-Creature Features (6.26) …regarding the wolf (real and fake)
-The Author’s Journey (7.58) …regarding Daniel Wallace, author of Big Fish.
These featurettes can be accessed through a menu or by a branching feature called Fish Tales. If this feature is selected, the movie will begin and when the right moment arrives, a blue fish will appear on the bottom right hand corner of the screen. With the enter button on the remote, you can access the featurette relating to the moment in the film.
Also included is a commentary with director Tim Burton, as well as a Finer Points : A Trivia Game. The trivia is based on facts of past Tim Burton projects. Once you reach then end, a surprise featurette awaits. There are also six film previews including the theatrical trailer for Big Fish (16:9, DD5.1). Note that previews for Secret Window and Spiderman 2 are forced as soon as the disc is put in the player. FYI, there is no chapter stop insert in the keep case.
This is another wonderful movie by Burton featuring excellent performances from the cast. The movie’s atmosphere changes from scene to scene it would almost seem to be a different film in each instance. It isn’t though; it is a film tying together the man’s diverse past through his eyes. Both the film and the DVD presentation is worthy of a viewing. I hope you’ll like this film as much as I did. Recommended.