©2008 Big Empire Industries and Randy Shandis Enterprises
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This week:
Big Fish

Filthy says:
"Dem Southern folk sure is cute.

So, where was I?

I was pissed at my parents for something. Probably my upbringing, which was oppressively unremarkable. You know how when you fuck up in life your first reaction is to follow the chain of events until you can find somebody else to blame? For example, on New Year's Eve, I fell into the creek while trying to feed the ducks hors d'oeuvres. No, don't worry, I didn't freeze; I was really tanked at the time, plus I had wet my pants, so it felt nice to rinse them out.

Was it my fault? Nobody else was there, true, at least not physically. Let's follow the chain of events, though. My Dad is the one who specifically told me not to come to the New Year's Party. He said I upset Mom's friends last year. Look, if "friends" don't want to see bladder scars or the chronic, slow seeping, they should say so, only louder. Otherwise, they aren't really friends, are they? The Mrs. went without me.

I got one other New Year's Party invite, that of this limey Hilary I temped with at Sears for the Christmas rush. At her party, she and James (this guy who isn't even Limey but pretends to be) were going to drink Rum toddies and watch a "Keeping up Appearances" marathon--I'm assuming--until one or the other killed themself. That's another thing that pisses me off. Sears hires you for the Christmas rush and they say they might keep on the best temp hires. If you try really hard and wish an extra special wish, maybe you can keep stocking men's underwear forever. Well, they canned my ass on December 26th, right after the last fat kid returned the last fucking pair of Huskies. Mary in Human Resources said they would have kept me on except that my performance was poor, my attendance was poor and my attitude was poor. My hygiene rating was satisfactory. I guess Sears would rather have really sweaty, farty people ringing up the customers than a guy who is, maybe, an hour or two late, but smells like coconuts. That's the sort of crap that's killing the department stores; I never smell B.O. at the Wal-Mart.

Back to my point, and it's a really fucking good one. That is, I'm the one who fell in the creek, but my dad is the ones who shoved me. Not literally, he hasn't done that for years. But if he had invited me to the party I wouldn't have been home alone with six bottles of AndrÈ Cold Duck and a box of Gino's pizza rolls, a combination as deadly as gunpowder and a lead pipe. It was also my father who instilled in me a deep sense of nurturing for animals that deepens with alcohol intake. I can't remember exactly after how many bottles of hooch I started worrying about the birds, but think about it: The shit's called Cold Duck. Who's not going to start fretting over the little guys? Who's going to tell them when the new year starts, or how to make waterproof pants? (See, the thing is making them to fit over those big webbed feet and still fit snugly. I've thought about this a lot.) Who's going to be there for the ducks on the last day of 2003? I am, with a plate of piping hot Gino's.

Thanks, Dad.

Big Fish, Director Tim Burton's latest failure in a quickly deteriorating career, is a father-son story: the kind where the boring, whiny kid blames his pop for ruining his boring life. Waa waa waa. Billy Crudup is a grown man, a journalist married and living in France, essentially estranged from his father (Albert Finney--bloated in body, spirit and performance). You see, the father is a teller of tall tales; stories of hokey, fluffy Southern-style bullshit, and the son feels like he never got to know the real man behind them.

Of course, Finney's character is dying, which gives him a grand opportunity to lie in bed and give one of those powerful deathbed performances full of phlegmy coughs and profundity. Crudup agrees to visit his father one last time with his pregnant wife. From then on, what we get in the present time is some variation of that soggy Tuesdays with Morrie horseshit, where one guy lies prone and spews wisdom like methane at a feed lot, and the other guy sits around, listens and then thinks, "Gosh, I'm a better person now." The stories Finney spews are fantastical and mesmerizing, or so the bombastic, clichÈd soundtrack would have us believe. Each spins the story into the past, where Finney is played by Ewan MacGregor.

This premise serves Tim Burton well. There is very little plot and lots of visual oddities like circus freaks, a giant, midgets, lost utopias, werewolves and haunted woods. It's all sort of interesting, but not as interesting as they should be considering they're all the movie's got going for it. In the end, the stories don't enrich or enlighten the dreary, predictable father-son story. They are just weird stuff that Burton and screenwriter John August thought up.

The basic story of Crudup and Finney reconciling is too fucking dull to cry over, which is what Burton wants. Boo hoo, a pouty little bitch doesn't like his father. Join the fucking club. Big Fish doesn't ever give us a reason to care that one more dullard is sucking oxygen or that, no surprise, he realizes he was wrong as Finney takes his final breaths in a hospital. And of course, we learn that Finney's tales aren't so tall. He really did do a lot of these crazy things! In other words, Big Fish doesn't even ask the son to accept his father for who he is, which might be a profound lesson. Instead, it tells him it's okay to hate his father as a liar, but as a truth-teller he must be loved. What a bunch of backpedaling Hollywood horseshit.

Every time the movie spins into Finney's fantastical past, I held my breath thinking the movie was going to surprise us. It does once, with a war sequence and Siamese Twins. The rest of the time, the dreamy sequences feel too slight, too detached from the theme, and not fantastical enough. Part of the problem is that the characters are more awestruck by Burton's vision than I was.

Crudup's character is a dour, judgmental asshole. He's also as boring as a dentist's waiting room without even the anticipation of getting a boner when the dental assistant puts her latexed hands down your throat and scolds your brushing habits. Come on, guys, we all have those fantasies. Crudup's dullard is not worth hanging a movie's emotional journey on, because he has nowhere to go but to get his comeuppance. This is painfully obvious from the first time this whiny bitch opens his mouth.

Finney's bedridden southern man is pure cornball. He's acting and drawling like he's going for at least two Oscars. Every time he opens his mouth, he looks pleased with how damn cutesy he's being before the words start tumbling out like honey-soaked wool socks. I would never give any asshole who talks this much the pleasure of letting him think I like his story as much as he loves telling it.

In the flashbacks, miscast Ewan MacGregor plays a younger Finney as a southern-accent-challenged blabbermouth who struts through every scene pretty certain that the digital effects will add the magic later. At one point he's playing the world's only 18-year old who could qualify for a 10% senior discount at Wendy's. He, like the rest of the cast, seem to think a southern accent is all that's needed to be heart-warming.

Here's my final beef. This movie feels as fucking synthetic as a leisure suit. It's all manufactured sweetness. None of it, present story or fantasy past, rings true or sincere so much as it feels like what a bunch of coldhearted Hollywood grassfuckers think we'll eat up. It feels like nobody who made Big Fish believed the crap they were putting up there, but they kept thinking that if they added more sugar, more treacly music and heavier Southern accents it would ring true.

It's garbage, really: an old, stinking carp wrapped in a bow. Two Fingers for Big Fish.

Want to tell Filthy Something?



David Sheehan of CBs Los Angeles

The Haunted Mansion is "Delicious entertainment! Eddie Murphy is the super-funny super-ghostbuster of the new millennium!"

Mona Lisa Smile is "the best picture of the year by far! (It) will put a smile on your face, in your heart and in your mind!" (sort of makes you wonder what the one on your face is reflecting.)

Filthy's Reading
Jonathan Raban- Passage to Juneau

Listening to
Man or Astroman?- 1000X


North by Northwest