Main cast: Ewan McGregor (Ed Bloom, age 18-38), Albert Finney (Senior Ed Bloom), Perry Walston (Ed Bloom, age 10), Billy Crudup (Will Bloom), Jessica Lange (Senior Sandra Bloom), Alison Lohman (Younger Sandra Bloom), Helena Bonham Carter (Jenny/The Witch), Robert Guillaume (Dr Bennett), Marion Cotillard (Josephine), Matthew McGrory (Karl), Ada Tai (Ping), Arlene Tai (Jing), Steve Buscemi (Norther Winslow), and Danny DeVito (Amos Calloway)
Director: Tim Burton
Before I start, let me get this off my chest. Here we have a movie starring Ewan McGregor, who appears naked in every eight out of ten movies, and instead I get a shot of Danny DeVito’s naked body from behind. This is so wrong. But that’s just one of the many things wrong about this overcooked vomit from a director that should really know better.
Big Fish is all about romanticizing men that don’t grow up. Tim Burton has had a few movies that are all about the joys of discovering one’s inner child without sacrificing adult sensibilities (Beetlejuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas), but Big Fish is the wrong kind of romanticization. It doesn’t entertain, it grabs its heavy-handed messages in one giant fist and shoves that fist down my throat until I gag. Big Fish is closer to puerile self-important greeting cards like Simon Birch than Tim Burton would like.
Will Bloom stops talking to his father Ed for five years after his father gave another one of his interminable fantastic stories on Will’s wedding day to Josephine, and hence turned Will’s big day into another All about Ed day. Ed has always been telling fantastic stories about his exploits, and Will has long stopped believing these stories. Adult disillusionment has settled in and his exasperation with his father that just won’t grow up causes him to stay away from Ed until today, when Ed is dying. Will and his wife will fly down for some reconciliation where at the end of the day, everyone agrees that non-stop BS is the way to go.
Along the way, I am treated with Ed’s stories. There’s ten-year old Ed, thinking that he will turn into a giant! There’s eighteen-year old Ed, who for some reason looks like a thirtysomething Ewan McGregor, who alongside having what seems to be a case of rapid aging also becomes a basketball star, baseball star, science fair winner, small town hero, cool jock, and the recipient of the key to the town of Aston, with a reputation that spreads beyond the town. He saves the town from a giant named Karl, finds a creepy small town where everyone goes about shoeless and is very happy, dallies for a day and makes them love him before leaving for bigger things: a circus run by a werewolf midget Amos Calloway where he then works for free for three years as he dreams about finding his woman of his dreams, Sandra. After winning her from her hubby-to-be, he is enlisted where he saves the day by retrieving important documents single-handedly in a covert undercover mission and along the way saves Siamese twins Ping and Jing and takes them to America where I guess he deposits them at the same circus ran by Amos where he deposited Karl in a magnanimous gesture of kindness. And then he becomes a salesman and sells zillions of stupid spring-hand-thingie, helps a poet friend rob a bank and inspires this guy to become a zillionaire Wall Street fellow, helps rebuild that creepy town, gets the formerly kiddie now grown-up Jenny to fall in love with him, and… and… well, if you can’t tell by now, Ed is obviously a drama queen narcissist with serious issues about needing attention and turning everything into about him.
Ewan McGregor displays the appropriate joie de vivre as he gallops and dances through beautifully-shot Pleasantville-type scenes but all the relentless non-stop ridiculously overblown Me Me Me stories of Ed Bloom soon wear really thin and grate painfully on my nerves. Watching this movie is like listening non-stop to a guy that can’t talk about anything but himself. While William behaves just as childishly as Ed, at least his behavior arises from confusion – he wishes to know whom his father really is, but Ed just can’t stop bragging about his exploits. This movie seems oblivious as to how unlikable Ed is as an ignorant know-it-all braggart that acts like a kid even when he’s on his deathbed, instead portraying such behavior as charming eccentricity that, as a character tells Will, is preferable to Ed telling the dull truth, so Will shouldn’t actually complain.
I wish that someone has acknowledged that maybe Will has the right to be fed up with his father’s constant attention hogging and embarrassing bragging. Or that someone will even consider that Ed has done wrong with Will by never being there for him. Instead, this movie expects me to be in love with Ed as much as Ed loves himself just because whee! Ed is happy! Charming! The Best! Give me a break. The whole canonization of Ed, a lousy father and an unlikable blowhard, is irritating because the movie forces the icky love down my throat. Who is the real Ed? Why should I even care about him? This movie fails to address these questions, hence my dissatisfaction with it.
The movie calls Ed a big fish, but frankly, I wish the words “Shut up already!” has appeared somewhere in the script.