Big Fish


Mixed or average reviews - based on 42 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 24 out of 42
  2. Negative: 3 out of 42

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Critic Reviews

  1. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    Big Fish really is a big delight.
  2. 90
    A tale that's so enriching, so heartwarming, so funny, so touching and so breathtaking, you'll wonder why the king of wackiness didn't branch out sooner.
  3. 88
    Director Tim Burton finally hooks the one that got away: a script that challenges and deepens his visionary talent.
  4. 88
    Even with Burton's imagination turning its trademark cartwheels, the film's big beating heart holds the whimsical offshoots steady.
  5. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    Has enough tasty bait to satisfy an array of moviegoers: Burton fans, Albert Finney fans, fans of tall tales well spun by experts and fans of movies that don't look like any other.
  6. A word of warning. Big Fish is so strange and so literary that audiences seeking conventional fare may get impatient with it. But it always takes effort to catch the big ones. This one is worth it.
  7. 88
    This picture boasts a story about a yarn-spinning Southern father (Albert Finney) and a sober-sided son (Billy Crudup) that gives it ballast and staying power beyond anything in previous, precious Burton fables like "Edward Scissorhands" or "Ed Wood."
  8. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    When it catches fire, this great-looking movie offers hilarious diversions.
  9. 80
    Burton rebounds in a big way with Big Fish, a Daniel Wallace adaptation and visual feast that recaptures the fairy-tale simplicity and wrenching emotional power of "Edward Scissorhands."
  10. 80
    An achievement of this magnitude is a stunning and extremely pleasant surprise.
  11. Reviewed by: Ian Freer
    In anchoring the whimsy to something more heartfelt, Burton is greatly aided by Billy Crudup, who underplays potentially cringeworthy bedside scenes with his dying dad.
  12. The movie is a gently overstuffed cinematic piñata, crammed with tall tales -- with giants and circuses and fairy-tale woods, plus a huge squirmy catfish, all served up with a literal matter-of-fact fancy that is very pleasing.
  13. 75
    Big Fish is a clever, smart fantasy that targets the child inside every adult, without insulting the intelligence of either.
  14. Burton's film is an American version of the Odyssey.
  15. 75
    Too well-made and well-acted to be entirely cute -- but the result is fairly tepid in comparison to the overheated highlights of Burton's career.
  16. Like virtually all fish stories, it's discursive, funny, full of boasting, a suspect mix of truth and lies with an emphasis on the latter.
  17. Such astringent details as a banjo player plucking a few ominous notes from "Dueling Banjos" when Ed first lays eyes on the Norman Rockwellian beauty of Spectre ensure that the story's fundamental sweetness never becomes cloying.
  18. There's delight to be had from watching Burton conjure up one fantastical Edward-inspired scenario after another.
  19. An engagingly whimsical, sporadically charming, frequently very funny Southern Gothic fantasy that somehow doesn't quite come together to be as magical or meaningful as it's intended to be.
  20. The problem is, there's just not enough Burton in Big Fish.
  21. But Burton and August have added ­anger to the mix, and it sours much of the otherwise wondrous tone.
  22. 63
    Big Fish of course is a great-looking film, with a fantastical visual style that could be called Felliniesque if Burton had not by now earned the right to the adjective Burtonesque.
  23. 63
    This is a theme tailor-made for Burton, although there are times in the movie when it feels like he's not taking enough advantage of it.
  24. 63
    The actor's job here is the hardest to pull off, since practical skepticism in a Tim Burton picture is next to villainy. Yet Crudup suggests complex grown-up feelings that makes the rest of Big Fish feel like an earnest collection of magic tricks.
  25. The New Yorker
    Reviewed by: Anthony Lane
    What is most disappointing about Big Fish is the nervousness of its fantasizing--a strange unwillingness, new in Burton's work, to trust the wit of the audience. [15 December 2003, p. 119]
  26. Wall Street Journal
    Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    Simultaneously beguiling and frustrating -- the product of an imagist and dramatist uncomfortably conjoined.
  27. For the first time, Burton seems comfortable walking around the real world.
  28. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    The imaginatively illustrated but precariously precious film offers up a string of minor pleasures but never becomes more than moderately amusing or involving.
  29. Has moments of genuine emotion...but overall, the film feels like it issues from a place Burton doesn't inhabit.
  30. The most curious thing about this magical-realist how thin and soft it is, how unpersuasive and ultimately forgettable even its most strenuous inventions turn out to be.
  31. 50
    It's nicely made, well shot, and reasonably well acted, yet it's enough to filet the life force right out of you. We need stories in order to dream, and to live. But that doesn't mean we have to buy every crappy one that comes down the pike.
  32. The Alabama setting is as phony as the one in Forrest Gump, and for all of Finney's effectiveness as a yarn-spinning geezer, his whoppers seem disconnected from his character and each other--a weakness Burton fails to resolve with an awkward Felliniesque finale.
  33. A misfire. The film that wants to be lighter than air instead crashes to earth with the swiftness of a concrete parachute.
  34. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    The film fairly groans from all the narrative gamesmanship and lavish romantic gestures...The unbewitched viewer may groan as well.
  35. 40
    An abundance of dull exposition building up to the son's attempt to cap his father's whoppers climaxes with a tedious flurry of Fellini-esque endings and Spielbergian fillips. The magic doesn't work twice -- or even once.
  36. 40
    The whole seems disjointed, incoherent and lacking in the startling originality of the other two Edwards (Scissorhands and Wood) who, half a career back, poured from Burton's distended outsider imagination.
  37. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    The most fluid, lyrical, and even-toned work of his (Burton's) career. It's also the most boring by a factor of 10.
  38. 40
    Tim Burton is all grown up and getting serious with this wildly scattershot tale.
  39. Big Fish stinks from the head.
  40. A disappointingly dull thud of a fantasy.
  41. A long-winded indulgence in tear-and-a-smile whimsy, elevated above the merely irritating and saccharine by compelling art direction.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 408 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 10 out of 125
  1. AlonsoC.
    Jul 11, 2009
    A You-Must-See Movie, one of my favorite movies of all time, it has a funny part and has it serious and lovely part, you always learn A You-Must-See Movie, one of my favorite movies of all time, it has a funny part and has it serious and lovely part, you always learn something about life in this movie. And as Sam F. Says, this is one of those movie where you can say that if don't liked it, it's because you didn't get it. One of the greatest movies of all time (in MY opinion). Full Review »
  2. Jul 16, 2012
    This review contains spoilers, click full review link to view. Big Fish is a peculiar movie, even for being a Tim Burton picture. It is about the life of a man whose father loves to tells stories from the time he was young, but the problem is that the anecdotes are hard to believe, because there are extremely rare and unlikely to happen; for example the story of the eye of a witch that can tell you when you are going to die, the one of a giant who is convinced to leave and stop terrifying a town, the circus that is managed by a werewolf or the scape from a war with two Siamese. All this produce constant fights between Edward and his son; and this is one of the topics that Tim Burton treats on his films. Although the other topics from this great director are less developed they are also noticeable: the gothic and expressionist characters (the witch, the giant and the circus manager) and environments (the forest and the witch house); and the contrast between two worlds represented graphically, the present in which Edward tells his stories (darker or opaque colors) and the past in which the stories take place (bright and attractive colors).
    The thing is that does not matter if the anecdotes were real or not, you decide what you want to believe, you can live a boring life and had nothing interesting to tell, no dreams, no hope, no goals; or you can live an amazing life, with endless stories to tell and enjoy being a Big Fish.
    Full Review »
  3. Nov 2, 2010
    This was a fairly trite and predictable story in my view. A real dissapoint after watching Edward scissorhandy. You get the feeling thatThis was a fairly trite and predictable story in my view. A real dissapoint after watching Edward scissorhandy. You get the feeling that burton has sold out. These kind of mythic, sweeping movies have the same feel as forest gump. They are all too transparent with their message and leave nothing to the imagination. The characters are not believable and it feels an hour too long. Full Review »