Big Fish

Danny Elfman

" Charming, soft and delightful "

Written by Thomas Glorieux - Review of the regular release

With every Tim Burton film comes a Danny Elfman score. And the same can be said about the reverse. I was anticipating the score very much since a dash of fantasy is always inspiring to listen to. The trailer also used Elfman's music of Black Beauty and Edward Scissorhands so heavenly, it just couldn't fail whatsoever. After all it was the same composer of that heavenly music at the helm of this score. But Elfman is a bit like Zimmer, he isn't one to repeat the same or the expected. So like Spider-Man was no Batman, Big Fish is no Edward Scissorhands, and that is the first and foremost important realization to remember of this soundtrack review.

Of course many fans were disappointed by this, including me. But like many fans too, the score does have potential. It is first of all a lovely entry. A bit more subdued but carrying all the Elfman stylistic trademarks nonetheless. The manner in how he weaves his themes through each other (with a dash of growing choir) is still ever-present. But like most composers, this is the mature side of Elfman at work. It is much more complex and detailed than what came before it.

The soundtrack covers not only Elfman's material but also various songs. The song by Pearl Jam is lovely, the ones by Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley classics in their own right and the ones of The Allman Brothers and Canned Heat enjoyable from start to finish. The original song found at the end, written by Elfman and John August is a bit weird when you consider the rest, but it has a certain kind of flair to it which keeps it interesting enough.

But the Elfman material is the reason for the success behind its nomination, and it is understandable when you heard it a couple of times. The first time you were disappointed, because it didn't sound like Edward Scissorhands. But through time and patience, the score grows to an acceptable standard, making it strong enough on its own.

Inevitably, there are highlights. "The Growing Montage" with its fantasy like orchestral music bounces forward ala Black Beautyand Sommersby. Plus, it has the trademark Elfman lala choir (which we don't hear a lot anymore). Even more, the constant soft elegant mood of the 11 minute "Finale" is a breeze as well. It has occasional jigs, piano, soft choir, the most reoccurring theme of the score and a magical ending when we encounter the choral interlude.

Besides these highlights, the score remains pleasant if a bit too soft for me. "Big Fish (Titles)" presents the first use of soft choir in a somewhat Irish tint. And the first performance of Sandra's theme or the main theme is lovely to hear. The score takes on a brief darker road with "Leaving Spectre", and "Return to Spectre" doesn't sound too fluffy as well, returning with a Pledge like tone. "The Journey Home", "In the Tub" and "Sandra's Farewell" all present the Sandra theme either on piano or soft strings, making them too soft for a Edward Scissorhands moment, but lovely nonetheless. The "End Titles" close the score with the most important themes.

Once again, you could be arguing that this is too soft for your liking. But there is no reason to deny that the softer cousin of Edward Scissorhands sounds equally lovely and charming. Big Fish is a return to the softer Elfman we occasionally receive from him, and just like The Family Man, the occasional growth creates wonders when it appears. It was strangely the only Oscar nomination the film would receive. So don't start complaining about the lack of grand material, start to appreciate the charm that is once again coming from Danny Elfman instead.

Score: ***1/2
Songs: ***


1. Man of the Hour: Pearl Jam (3.45)
2. Dinah: Bing Crosby (2.17)
3. Everyday: Buddy Holly (2.09)
4. All Shook Up: Elvis Presley (1.58)
5. Five 'O Clock World: The Vogues (2.10)
6. Ramblin' Man: The Allman Brothers (4.57)
7. Let's Work Together: Canned Heat (3.14)
8. Pictures (0.46)
9. Big Fish (Titles) (4.32)
10. Shoe Stealing (0.56)
11. Underwater (1.52)
12. Sandra's Theme (2.26)
13. The Growing Montage (2.41) Excellent track
14. Leaving Spectre (1.59)
15. Return to Spectre (2.13)
16. Rebuilding (1.19)
17. The Journey Home (2.10)
18. In the Tub (1.21)
19. Sandra's Farewell (1.16)
20. Finale (11.10) Excellent track
21. End Titles (2.38)
22. Jenny's Theme (1.46)
23. Twice the Love (Siamese Twins' Song) * (1.48)

* Performed by Bobbie Page & Candice Rumph, written by Danny Elfman & John August

Total Length: 61.24
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 29 votes - average 4/5)

Released by

Sony Classical SK 93094 (regular release 2003)

Orchestrations by

Steve Bartek, Jane Antonia Cornish, David Slonaker & Edgardo Simone