Big Fish UHD Review

4.5 Stars Tall tales with style

Tim Burton’s Big Fish from 2003 makes its UHD debut with a new transfer and Dolby Atmos mix. No new bonus material, but the included Blu-ray contains the same-sourced transfer in 1080p.

Big Fish (2003)
Released: 09 Jan 2004
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 125 min
Director: Tim Burton
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Romance
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange
Writer(s): Daniel Wallace (novel), John August (screenplay)
Plot: A frustrated son tries to determine the fact from fiction in his dying father's life.
IMDB rating: 8.0
MetaScore: 58

Disc Information
Studio: Sony
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: Dolby Atmos, English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DTS
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: PG-13
Run Time: 2 Hr. 5 Min.
Package Includes: UHD, Blu-ray, Digital Copy
Case Type: 2-disc UHD keepcase with slipcover
Disc Type: UHD
Region: All
Release Date: 05/04/2021
MSRP: $30.99

The Production: 4/5

It is rather odd that Sony decided to release Tim Burton’s Big Fish on UHD in early May, as I often think of this film, along side Field of Dreams, as terrific Father’s Day movies. Edward Bloom (Albert Finney) loves to tell tall tales about himself, so much so that at his son Will (Billy Crudup) is but a footnote in the story Edward tells on Will’s wedding day of how he caught a rather large and uncatchable fish with his wedding ring on the day Will was born. That incident caused a wall to be built between father and son where they did not speak to each other for three years, until Will receives a phone call from his mother (Jessica Lange) informing him that Edward does not have much longer to live. Will and his pregnant wife Josephine (Marion Cotillard) fly home from Paris, hoping to reconcile the father-son relationship, with Will hoping to learn something true about his father. Not much has changed, as Edward relates more tall tales about himself to Will and Josephine, all shown in storybook flashbacks featuring Ewan MacGregor as the younger and very exuberant Edward.

Big Fish was something of a personal film for director Tim Burton, having lost his father and mother just a few years prior to the production of the film, and was not all that close to them. There is an added emotional depth to the reconciliation scenes that we rarely see in most Tim Burton films, and they are very heartfelt. The fanciful stories are where this movie shines, allowing Burton’s imagination to soar on screen as Edward gets trapped behind enemy lines and befriends Ping and Jing (a pair of conjoined twins), meets his true love (Alison Lohman) at the circus run by Amos Calloway (Danny DeVito), and finding a hidden paradise of a town in the middle of nowhere.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

Big Fish was photographed on 35mm film with effects rendered and completed as a 2K digital intermediate. Sony has scanned the original camera negative in 4K (assuming digital effects sequences have been upscaled from 2K) to create a new 4K digital intermediate. HDR10 has been added for this UHD release. Fine detail is excellent, from facial features (including age makeup) to fabric textures. Colors are natural and vibrant where necessary (particularly in the more fantastical adventures). Contrast is excellent, from deep blacks with strong shadow detail (the night time argument between Edward and Will about four minutes in you can still see the outlines of their dark suits) and bright whites (Missi Pyle’s white patterned dress at 31:17). Film grain is intact and organic, and don’t let the over-abundance of grain in the Columbia Pictures logo alarm you, as it settles down once the opening titles begin. For those that are not 4K capable yet, there is good news – the included Blu-ray is sourced from the same new 4K transfer.

Audio: 4.5/5

The new Dolby Atmos mix for Big Fish is subtle in design, but still manages to show improvement over its original 5.1 mix. This is a much wider and deeper mix, making good use of the rear surrounds with some occasional use of heights to better immerse the viewer in sound. LFE is a but punchier than on the 5.1 mix, but never overbearing. Dialogue is clear and understandable throughout. For the purists, Sony has included the film’s original 5.1 mix in DTS-HD MA. The included Blu-ray, per Sony policy, does not include the new Atmos track.

Special Features: 3.5/5

The UHD disc contains no special features whatsoever, but the included (and newly authored) Blu-ray ports over most if not all of the special features from the original 2004 DVD release, all upscaled to 1080i.

Original EPK (upscaled 1080i; 38:53): Raw behind the scenes and interview footage.

The Character’s Journey (upscaled 1080i; 20:43): A fairly straight forward behind the scenes series of featurettes centering on the characters of Edward Bloom, Circus Ringleader Amos, and the Father-Son relationship.

The Filmmaker’s Path (upscaled 1080i; 30:41): A behind the scenes look at Tim Burton, production design, creature effects, and author of the source material Daniel Wallace.

Director’s Commentary Moderated by Mark Salisbury: This plays more like an interview than scene by scene commentary, but is interesting to listen to.

Easter Eggs (upscaled 1080i; 3:09): A look at how the still frame circus sequence was achieved, and Tim Burton drives a golf cart down the main street of the Spectre town set.

Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 2:21)

Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy (in UHD where available) on Movies Anywhere.

Overall: 4.5/5

Sony continues to release catalog titles on UHD with stellar transfers, and Big Fish is no exception. While no new special features were created for this release, owners of the previous nearly barebones Blu-ray edition from 2007 will want to consider upgrading to this UHD edition, as the included Blu-ray includes a 1080p downscaled version of the new 4K transfer plus most if not all of the special features from the 2004 DVD release.

Todd Erwin has been a reviewer at Home Theater Forum since 2008. His love of movies began as a young child, first showing Super 8 movies in his backyard during the summer to friends and neighbors at age 10. He also received his first movie camera that year, a hand-crank Wollensak 8mm with three fixed lenses. In 1980, he graduated to "talkies" with his award-winning short The Ape-Man, followed by the cult favorite The Adventures of Terrific Man two years later. Other films include Myth or Fact: The Talbert Terror and Warren's Revenge (which is currently being restored). In addition to movie reviews, Todd has written many articles for Home Theater Forum centering mostly on streaming as well as an occasional hardware review, is the host of his own video podcast Streaming News & Views on YouTube and is a frequent guest on the Home Theater United podcast.

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