“Big Fish” flops

by Kate Paulman

“Big Fish” certainly lives up to its title-it hooks theaudience, but, after all is said and done, it’s a bit of a smellymess.

It’s being hailed as Tim Burton’s directorial masterpiece.Easily said, considering some of his latest works: “Planet of theApes” and “Mars Attacks!” However, nothing could ever live up to”Edward Scissorhands,” his 1990 masterpiece.

Unfortunately, audiences can figure out the entire story line of’Big Fish” after the first 20 minutes. The movie is touching, butnot touching enough to warrant a 110 minute running time.

Will Bloom, played by strong-jawed Billy Crudup, is the son ofEdward Bloom (Albert Finney). Edward was, according to his stories,an ambitious young man but at the movie’s opening he is an old mantelling stories at his son’s wedding. The father and son don’t talkfor three years after. They are only reunited after Will’s mother,Sandra (Jessica Lange), tells Will his father is dying.

Stealing the show is Ewan McGregor as the young Ed Bloom in thereenactments of the tall tales. Edward’s stories are retold toWill’s wife, Josephine Bloom (Marion Cotillard). Will is annoyedwith hearing the same fabrications over and over again. He feelslike he does not know who his father really is.

The focal story is about, you guessed it, a big fish. The fishis rumored to be the spirit of a thief who drowned in the river 60years ago and is said to be uncatchable. So Ed decided to use baitthat a thief would want, his gold wedding ring. He caught the fish,but it swallowed his ring. He wrestled the giant catfish to get thering back. The moral? Sometimes, to catch an uncatchable woman, youhave to offer her a ring. This all supposedly happened the day Willwas born, but Ed was actually a traveling salesman and in Wichitaat the time.

Ed recounts all kinds of adventures to his son’s wife. He andhis friends snuck out to see a witch whose glass eye showed how aperson would die. He was an all-star in his hometown. He decided toleave for the big city with an unloved giant, Karl (MatthewMcGrory). Ed then traveled through the idyllic city of Spectre,wound up in the circus and fell in love with a young SandraTempleton (Alison Lohman). He won the heart of Sandra from his highschool rival, Bon Price (David Denham). Before they could getmarried, Ed went to war and single handedly stole secret plans andescaped with a pair of conjoined twins, Ping and Jing (Ada andArlene Tai).

Helena Bonham Carter is almost unrecognizable as the backwoodsWitch. Carter also plays the older Jenny, showing her affinity forroles with bad hair, a la “Fight Club.” Carter’s role as the witchis lacking, but her performance as Jenny shows her skill.

The real question in this movie is how did they pry the skeletonof Joseph Merrick out of Michael Jackson’s pale hands and reanimateit to form McGrory? Standing 7 feet 6 inches tall in real life,McGrory plays the sensitive 15 foot giant well. It’s about time alovable giant came back onto the screen. Not since “The PrincessBride” has a giant been this sweet.

Steve Buscemi and Danny Devito make appearances in the film asthe poet Norther Wilson and circus owner/werewolf Amos Calloway.It’s definitely worth the price of admission just to see Devito’sbare behind. It’s surprisingly firm, by the way. McGregor playsyoung Ed with just the right amount of ambitious sparkle andnaivet����. Unfortunately, Burton focuses too much ondeveloping the characters outside of the stories. The audiencealready knows what’s going to happen between old Ed and his son.The only interesting bits are the stories.

Burton is obviously more skilled at making darker movies than”Big Fish.” His scenes of danger are clearly more inspired than hisattempts at creating a touching scene. His would be heartwarmingending ends up dragging on far too long. And a jumping catfish?Come on. It may be a moving story, but after two hours it’s morelikely the audience will want to be moving on.

The screenplay, written by John August but based on a book byDaniel Wallace, is extremely allegorical, deeper meanings hiddenbehind every jumping spider and naked swimming woman. Reading thebook would surely be more fulfilling than seeing the film.

It does have giants, twins and midgets. What more does a movieneed?