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Unquestionably, Tim Burton is one of the great visualists of modern cinema; directing an impressive array of films over his career, each of which has dazzled the eye. However, all great director have their detractors, and as such, Burton has been criticized through the years for a seeming lack of emotional depth in his films. Of course, this is something that Burton has rectified with his latest film BIG FISH ($29). BIG FISH is Tim Burtonís most intimate and personal motion picture, yet it contains all visual wonder that the directorís fans have come to expect from his movies. Playing like a sweetly charming American fable, BIG FISH contains a great deal of emotional depth, which is realized through a solid screenplay and the first rater performances of a highly talented cast.

Based upon the novel by Daniel Wallace, BIG FISH tells of the strained relationship between storyteller extraordinaire Ed Bloom and his son Will (Billy Crudup), who has never been able to swallow his fatherís tall tales. As Ed approaches the end of the road, Will decides to make use the time that remains, to reach out to his father, so he may discover the man behind the myth. BIG FISH segues back and forth between reality and all the fish stories that Ed has been telling about his life. Burton masterfully brings to life these delightfully fantastic sequences, which feature Ewan McGregor as the younger incarnation of Ed Bloom. The cast of BIG FISH also features Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter, Alison Lohman, Robert Guillaume, Marion Cotillard, Matthew McGrory, Ada Tai, Arlene Tai, Steve Buscemi and Danny DeVito.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made of BIG FISH available on DVD in a 1.85:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. This is a marvelous looking transfer, which makes the most of the filmís beautiful and occasionally stylized cinematography. The image is generally very sharp and highly defined, but there are moments when they appear just a bit softer. Colors tend to be bold and vibrant, with total stability and no overt fuzziness. Blacks are inky, whites appear pure and the picture produces very good shadow detail. Contrast can be a bit variable, depending upon the intended look of individual sequences. The film element used for the transfer is very clean and displays little appreciable grain. Digital compression artifacts are well camouflaged.

In addition to the wonderful video quality of the DVD, BIG FISH also features a great Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. The mix creates cohesive sonic environments, in addition to making excellent uses of all the discrete channels to lightly bounce sound effects around the soundstage. While this isnít the most aggressive mix out there, it certainly is beautifully realized- drawing the viewer in the world that Tim Burton creates for the audience. Musical fidelity is terrific, with Danny Elfmanís fine score making the most of the Dolby Digital encoding and the entire soundstage. The bass channel is strong enough for the material at hand, but doesnít call attention to itself. As much of the film is dialogue driven, it is nice that everything is totally understandable, and the voices ring with a good natural timber. A French Dolby Surround track is also included on the DVD, as are English and French subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials. Starting things off is a running audio commentary with director Tim Burton, who appears interview fashion, answering direct questions and providing excellent detail on the production. In the featurettes section one will find two subsections- The Characterís Journey and The Filmmakersí Path. Featurettes are also accessible in interactive fashion during the course of the film. In The Characterís Journey, one will find Edward Bloom At Large- eight minutes on the main character; Amos At The Circus- four minutes on Danny DeVitoís character; Fathers And Sons- seven minutes on that particular relationship. The Filmmakersí Path features Tim Burton: Storyteller- six minutes on the director; A Fairytale World- a nine minute look at the world within the world within the film; Creature Features- is six minutes on Stan Winstonís work; The Authorís Journey- runs nearly eight minutes and features Daniel Wallace talking about the development of the story. A trivia game, a theatrical trailer and bonus trailers close out the supplements.

Like its central character, BIG FISH is a real charmer. This is a warm and winning film, with an emotional resonance and the usual Tim Burton sense of visual wonder. Columbia has done a fine job with the DVD, offering a terrific audio and visual presentation, as well as a nice supplemental package. If you are a Tim Burton fan, BIG FISH is a must have DVD. Recommended.



Big Fish (2004)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2004 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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