This version of Daniel Wallace's fantasy novel has had many favourable reviews Stateside. Is that because, like the similar fabulation in Forrest Gump, it offers a profoundly meretricious portrait of the US from the Depression to, roughly, the present? Or is it because of its comforting conceit that death doesn't really remove us from the world? Surely it can't be the implication that women exist purely to be courted, raise kids and stand by their men. Many reckon it wrong to take fantasy to task for such ethical shortcomings. In recounting the adventures (with giants, conjoined twins, witches, werewolves, circus folk, poets) that tall-storyteller and travelling salesman Edward Bloom (Finney) constantly claims for his younger self (McGregor) - to the amusement of all but estranged son Will (Crudup) - Burton and Co are clearly aiming for something more 'universal' than history and politics. But this is set in Alabama (a key battlefield in the Civil Rights struggle) and so to show virtually no blacks except for a doctor (implausibly allowed to deliver Bloom's mother of her baby) is whitewashing of the worst kind. The film doesn't so much reject history as selectively rewrite it to its own reactionary, even offensive ends. This might perhaps be just about tolerable were the film funny, illuminating, insightful or moving. It is not.
Cast and crew
Helena Bonham Carter