Australian Council on Children and the Media

Big Fish

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Short takes

Not recommend under 8, PG to 13 (Viol. Lang. Themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Big Fish
  • a review of Big Fish completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 5 February 2004.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Due to the level of scariness, this movie is not recommended for young children under 8.
Children aged 8-13 Children aged 8-12 would need some parental guidance to view this movie.
Children over the age of 13 Children over 13 should be okay to see this film with or without parental guidance.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Big Fish
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Medium level violence, Mature themes, Low level coarse language, Nudity
Length 125 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

William Bloom has listened all his life to his father Edward’s tall, fishy tales about his life. William, now married and expecting his first child, would like to know the true account of Edward’s life as he feels that he and his father are “strangers who know each other very well”.
Edward, however, refuses to budge from his version which begins with his dramatic entrance into the world when he literally pops out of his mother’s womb and goes flying down the hospital corridor. As a child, Edward is the dare devil who knocks on the door of the witch’s housing asking to see her glass eye. He grows up to be the local hero of Ashton, the baseball star, the winner of the science fair and rescuer of dogs from burning houses. One day a giant of a man named Carl comes to live in a cave near Ashton much to the distress of the local residents. Of course Edward goes to visit Carl to discuss the possibility of his moving on. They become friends and decide to leave for the bigger world together. Edward goes on to have many adventures in his life and meets many unusual characters. He visits Spectre, a seemingly perfect place, where he meets a poet from Ashton. Spectre however is not as it appears and has underlying problems which Edward revisits later on. He and Carl go on to join a circus working for a Mr. Calloway who is really a werewolf and where Edward works for three years in exchange for information about the woman he wishes to marry.
After he’s married Edward is called up to war and is parachuted into enemy territory where he meets conjoined twins who are singing stars. Edward brings them back to America to join Mr. Calloway’s circus. Of course William is highly sceptical about all these stories but the end of Edward’s life holds even more surprises for William.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

None of concern

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including the following scenes:

  • Carl breathes on Edward and blows him with force to the ground.
  • While he’s at the circus Edward gets knocked over by a ride, is shot out of a cannon and puts his head in a lion’s mouth.
  • Edward goes into Mr. Calloway’s caravan and is pounced upon by a fierce wolf (Mr. Calloway) who growls and bares his teeth menacingly.
  • Attendants have a tranquilliser gun to shoot wolf but shoot Edward by mistake.
  • Don Price, one of Edward’s childhood rivals, beats him up badly because he takes his fiancée from him. Edward is left with a bloody mouth and bruising to his face.
  • The poet fires guns while holding up a bank.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

There is quite a lot of material that would scare children in this age group. As well as the violent scenes mentioned above, the following could scare very young children:

  • When Edward’s mother gives birth to him, she is in a lot of pain and screams a great deal.
  • As a child Edward loves to tell stories about witches, snakes and quick sand. He talks about witches who eat children and use their bones to cast spells.
  • Edward’s friends dare him to go inside the witch’s house to get her glass eye and then tell him that she’ll make soap out of him.
  • The witch opens the door and looks really scary with a wrinkled face, glass eye and dishevelled hair.
  • The witch takes her eye out and gives it to Edward who shows it to the other boys who all see how they’re going to die in it.
  • When Edward goes to the cave to confront the giant, scary music plays and crows screech at him. The giant is very scary and yells in a very deep loud voice. He is extremely tall and looks grotesque. He walks out of the cave with a loud thumping noise.
  • Edward tells the giant he’s been sent as a human sacrifice for him to eat.
  • The road to Spectre is very scary – wooded and misty, said to be haunted. Owls screech at Edward and crows take his hat. Edward throws rocks at the crows disturbing a bee hive; the bees then attack Edward. Jumping spiders also jump on him and he’s trapped by trees which wrap their branches around him.
  • Edward sees a woman bathing in a lake in the nude and a snake is rapidly approaching her. Edward dives into the water to rescue the woman; when he gets out he’s covered in leeches.
  • At the circus a cat jumps from the high wire. Also Colossus (another giant, not as big as Carl) explodes out of his van.
  • When the wolf is threatening Edward, he throws a stick at it. We then see Mr. Calloway returning (in the nude and very hairy) with the stick in his mouth.
  • Edward gets trapped driving in a bad flood and his car sinks to the bottom of a lake. While he’s in the car he sees a woman swimming in the nude. He gets out somehow and the car is shown later stuck in the top of a tree.
  • Edward as an old man is taking a bath with his clothes on and is lying under the water; he looks like he’s dead.
  • William tells his father, on his death bed, a story of how he thinks he dies and he carries his body to a lake where he drops him and he turns into a large fish.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Most children in this age group would probably understand that this is fantasy. However, some scenes might still frighten children in this age group including the following:

  • Edward’s mother giving birth
  • The scene where the wolf viciously growls at Edward and then goes off to turn into Mr. Calloway.
  • Don Price beating up Edward.
  • Edward in his car sinking to the bottom of the lake.
  • Edward lying in the bath appearing dead.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group would probably not be scared by this movie except for maybe the werewolf scene.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are no sexual references in this movie.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity but only from a back view. None was provocative and the woman is shown in a respectful way:

  • The woman bathing in the lake
  • Mr. Calloway returning with the stick in his mouth
  • The woman swimming in the lake.

Use of substances

There is some drinking at a wedding.

Coarse language

There is a little coarse language including the occasional use of ‘bitch’ and ‘shit’.

In a nutshell

The take home message is one of tolerance and acceptance of others, regardless of their outward appearance. It’s also about finding one’s way in life and defining the difference between truth and emotion.

Values parents may wish to encourage include:

  • friendship
  • tolerance
  • optimism
  • selflessness
  • seeing things from another perspective
  • seeing the good in others
  • courage and bravery
  • fidelity.

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