Friday, January 16, 2004

"Boys and girls of every age / Wouldn't you like to see something strange?"
- Nightmare Before Christmas

Tim Burton's new movie, Big Fish, is a big disappointment. Maybe I'm too hard on him, because he's one of my favorite Hollywood directors. I expect his films to look great, but Big Fish was dark and muddy where it should have sparkled. Early in the film there's an old witch with a demonic eye, and I got my hopes up for some of the trademark Burton magic, but instead all I got was a vulgar joke. Helena Bonham Carter is good, as always, but Albert Finney is just awful. (And after such a good performance in A Gathering Storm.) Jessica Lange and Alison Lohman (both playing Sandra Bloom, the love interest, at different ages) are constantly dismissed from scenes having done nothing but stand and look pretty. Ewan McGregor has his moments, but if anyone saves this film from disaster, it's the always-excellent Billy Crudup. The story is an episodic southern Odyssey constructed of tall tales, but the material is mostly cliche ("fish stories" being the overriding theme) or just never realizes its full potential. Matthew McGrory is good as a giant, Danny Devito has a decent moment as a circus ringmaster, and the Tai sisters are fine as Siamese Twins, but this circus material is just the kind of thing you'd expect Burton to shine at--he was once rumored to be adapting Geek Love--so it's all the worse to see it fall so short of the mark. In the end, I finally connected with the film emotionally if only because of Crudup, so it wasn't a complete waste, but it could have been so much better.

TIM BURTON's Movies - my ranking

Ed Wood (1994) - out on DVD soon!
Beetlejuice (1988) - goofy fun
Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985) - there's no basement at the Alamo!
Edward Scissorhands (1990) - Johnny Depp? that guy from 21 Jump Street?
Mars Attacks! (1996) - you know you love it
Sleepy Hollow (1999) - back to basics Burton, Depp's a scream
Batman (1989) - I saw this too many times
Batman Returns (1992) - Catwoman rocks!
(Nightmare Before Christmas - story by Burton, directed by H. Selick)
Big Fish (2003) - see above
Planet of the Apes (2001) - trying too hard to get another franchise going

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