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The Big White [Blu-ray]
The Big White
Actors: Robin Williams, Holly Hunter, Woody Harrelson, Giovanni Ribisi, Tim Blake Nelson
Director: Mark Mylod
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
R     2008     1hr 45min

Now Available on Blu-Ray Disc — On the brink of bankruptcy, Alaska travel agent Paul Barnell cooks up a scheme to pass off a dead body as his long-lost brother, Raymond, and then collect on his life insurance. But unfortuna...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Robin Williams, Holly Hunter, Woody Harrelson, Giovanni Ribisi, Tim Blake Nelson
Director: Mark Mylod
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Robin Williams, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Format: Blu-ray - Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 07/29/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 45min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English
See Also:

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Movie Reviews

A Nice Diversion. 79 out of 100
Wisconsin Dad | Wisconsin United States | 08/17/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The Big White is a tale of an Alaskan man by the name of Paul Barnell (played by Robin Williams) who has a sick wife and mounting bills, and is in need of some quick cash. Paul decides to cash in a life insurance claim on his long since missing brother. It is here that the chaos ensues.

The Big White was a nice diversion, and a fun film to watch. Robin Williams does a good job of creating sympathy for his situation. Holly Hunter, as Margaret Barnell, is one of the true gems in the film. Her character is very lovable and extremely well acted.

The supporting cast in Big White is put together well. There are plenty of oddball, quirky people like Giovanni Ribisi, W. Earl Brown, and Tim Blake Nelson. Lets not forget Woody Harrelson. Woody is wonderful in the film as well.

The story doesn't have a lot of "roll on the floor" laughing moments, but it is funny and a pleasure to watch. Some folks have compared it to Fargo. I don't think that's fair. Just because it is in a similar genre with a classic doesn't make a film bad. Both films are good for different reasons.

I didn't think of Fargo when watching the Big White. The Big White is good enough to stand on it's own.

This is a movie you will enjoy watching, a movie that you would probably watch again, and a movie worthy of purchasing.

Total Score (out of 100) = 79

40 (out of 50). Enjoyment. A rating based on my overall enjoyment of the film.
9 (out of 10). Acting. How good was the acting?
9 (out of 10). Immersion. Did the movie suck me into the story?
9 (out of 10). Intangibles. Special effects. Movie pace. Is the movie forgettable, or something you will talk about and remember for weeks? Years?
7 (out of 10). Must see. Is this movie worth seeing/renting?
5 (out of 10). Must buy. Is this movie a must buy/purchase?"
Great Performances In A Picture That Tries Really, Really, R
K. Harris | Las Vegas, NV | 12/28/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Mark Mylod's largest film to date has been "Ali G Indahouse," a sporadically funny (but often silly) Sasha Baron Cohen character picture. For those now on a "Borat" high, you might want to catch up on another Cohen creation. Ali G can be an amusing hip-hop poser, but the film done as a conventional narrative lacks much of "Borat"'s imagination or ingenuity. So, several years later, it's impressive that he has aligned a cast of such magnitude as was assembled for the black comedy "The Big White." We've got Robin Williams, Holly Hunter, Woody Harrelson, Tim Blake Nelson, Giovanni Ribisi, and Alison Lohman in a comedy of murder, kidnapping, insurance fraud, phone psychics, and mental illness. Set in a small Alaskan hamlet, many people would like to compare this film to "Fargo." While the film shares some of the same comic sensibilities and a similar wintry locale, it's kind of like comparing "Casablanca" to "Pretty Woman." Both films may have a certain appeal, but they are definitely in different leagues.

Williams plays a down-on-his-luck travel agent with financial difficulties and a wife with Tourette's (Hunter). Needing cash, he tries to collect on his missing brother's insurance policy. Ribisi, as the insurance investigator, informs him that his brother has not been missing long enough to be considered legally dead and there's nothing that can be done. In a coincidence, a couple of amateur hitmen dump a body in the dumpster outside Williams' agency. Williams, on discovering the corpse, masterminds a plot to get his brother declared dead. The hitmen, then, are ordered to retrieve the body (which is now missing) and all types of mayhem ensues.

I will say that "The Big White" has a lot going for it, and I can imagine some people really enjoying it. For myself, however, the picture was always trying too hard to be outrageous--it's not grounded in the reality, heart, and subtlety that accompanied "Fargo." Yet it isn't played as an outright comedy either, it does expect you to care about the characters (which I really didn't, except as a mild diversion). I give all the actors credit for giving robust and committed performances. While not a huge Ribisi fan, I actually thought this was one of his better performances. And Tim Blake Nelson, as one of the hitmen, continues to be an underrated presence in any movie. A few words for Holly Hunter, whom I miss as a major actress. She is appealing, as always, in a cringeworthy conception--the Tourette's as a "cute" disease syndrome.

There are plenty of funny bits, some macabre humor--but there is so much going on (there's another story involving Ribisi's home life, and then there's Harrelson), the picture always felt slightly off balance. I certainly didn't regret watching "The Big White," it just never engaged me the way I wanted it too. A mild recommendation (especially if you like the actors), it might be a slight and enjoyable romp for you. About 3 1/2 stars. KGHarris, 12/06."
As the tagline says, "When you need somebody, anybody will d
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 06/16/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I have seen enough Robin Williams films in the past several years where I know the movie night have been made if he had not signed on to do it, but his performance did not really work in the film. However, the Robin Williams that shows up for "The Big White" has managed to strip things down another level, so that he is actually the eye of the hurricane in this 2005 black comedy that lets the rest of the cast go off the deep end. The rest is not great, but pretty good for a black comedy, a genre that has seen more misfires than hits in the last couple of decades.

Williams is Paul Barnell, who runs a travel agency in the frozen wasteland that is Alaska (at least in this film; not because it is true, but because it makes the title of the film work). Paul is strapped for cash and has a wife, Margaret (Holly Hunter), who has problems. She is convinced that she has developed Tourettes, but that would appear to be one thing she does not have. It has been five years since Paul's brother Raymond disappeared, and since he has a $1 million life policy out on his brother, a criminal type for whom a bad ending would have been predictable, and since he needs the money, he talks to the insurance company about being able to collect. But he is told by Ted (Giovanni Ribisi), the insurance investigator, that in Alaska when there is no body you have to wait seven years and then the company gets to hem and haw for another year. So it looks like Paul is about at the end of his rope.

Then he takes some trash out to the dumpster behind his business and lo, there is a frozen corpse just laying there. After he gets over the initial shock, the wheels starting turning in Paul's mind and he takes the corpse home, stashes it in the fridge in the garage, and plots to pass the body off as that of his brother. This becomes a bit more difficult than Paul thinks, but the local cops and coroner buy it, so things are going good. But Ted, who wants to get promoted out of Alaska and back to the real world, is suspicious. However, this might be the least of Paul's problems because the corpse was dumped there by a couple of low level thugs, Gary (Tim Blake Nelson) and Jimbo (W. Earl Brown), and their boss wants the body back. Plus, you know that in a movie like this no deed, good or bad, will go unpunished, so it is not surprising when Raymond (Woody Harrelson) himself shows up.

Because this is a black comedy it skates perilously close to a line. Hunter's character is the one that is in comic overdrive in this particular film, and Alison Lohman as Tiffany, the girl who is living with Ted and running a psychic friend operation out of his dinning room, seems like a throw away character but actually functions as the connection that will bring everybody together on a glacier for the final act to play out. I was worried that "The Big White" was going to turn too dark, but it does avoid that and I actually liked that we suddenly find everybody sitting around in a car taking a moment to collect their thoughts before talking. Plus the misplace efforts of Gary to avoid letting anybody trace their phone call to Paul tickled my funny bone.

I realize there is a tendency to compare "The Big White" to "Fargo," but I do not feel viewers are under an obligation to do so. Yes, both involve snow and quirky characters, but "Fargo" was about a desperate guy trying to scheme his way out of a mess of his own making and "The Big White" is the story of a guy who wants to take care of his wife and tries to take advantage of an opportunity that falls into his lap. That his brother shows up and his wife gets kidnapped are just bitter ironies here and there are also the attendant injuries being added by the people who beat up Paul. So there are enough significant differences between the two for me to judge director Mark Mylod by a standard he would not be able to meet. Most viewers will find themselves ahead of the game when they finish watching this one. Besides, we are getting to that part of the year where a world of snow constitutes an inviting world of relief away from the sweltering days to come."
Check Out "The Big Empty" Instead
Only-A-Child | 09/11/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)

"I don't need much of a budget to write a review of a film, only a little bit of my time for watching and writing. That said, I'm confident that if I had "The Big White's" $16 Million budget, indie director's dream cast, and lame "Fargo" inspired script; I could have made a better and more entertaining film. My first move would have been to throw some of the budget into a major script re-write, maybe just sending the thing off to the Coen brothers themselves for a quick IQ transfusion.

The "Fargo" rip-off comparisons are valid, but that does not mean that there is much about "The Big White" with which "Fargo" fans will connect. The similarities are pretty much confined to setting (Alaska instead of Minnesota), production design (white), and basic plot elements (two bumbling hoods, financially desperate businessman, kidnapped and bound wife), and a side story featuring an odd domestic couple (an insurance investigator instead of a female sheriff).

The "Fargo" disconnects are more subtle. Instead of a crime thriller with black comedy elements, "The Big White" is a black comedy with crime thriller elements. Which would not be a problem except that "Fargo's" occasional ironic comical moments have several times more amusement value than "The Big White's" frenzied efforts to inject some humor.

Secondly, on its most fundamental level "The Big White" is mean spirited. While "Fargo" parodied the great white north culture of Minnesota, the characters themselves were comfortable inhabitants of their strange white world; they had grown up there and were well suited to their environment. In "The Big White", the conflict and the character motivations stem from a desire to escape from a remote Alaskan town that seemingly has no virtues.

In The Big White, a failing Alaskan travel agency owner (Robin Williams playing his Jack Dundee character from "The Best of Times-1986) schemes to collect on his missing brother's life insurance policy by claiming that a dead body he has found in a dumpster is that of his brother. Things become complicated when two bumbling (possibly gay) hoods (Tim Blake Nelson and W. Earl Brown) kidnap his wife (Holly Hunter) because they need the body to prove that they have carried out a contract killing. Hunter's character may or may not have Tourette's Syndrome, a psychological condition which may or may not have comic potential in a feature film. But we will have to wait for a better script and a better to director to find out because the results are inconclusive here.

The main side story involves an obsessive insurance investigator (Giovanni Ribisi) and his air- headed telephone psychic girlfriend (Alison Lohman). Their scenes together provide the film's best moments and the only times when it manages to duplicate "Fargo's" almost poetic humor. Ribisi is solid in all his scenes and you wish a bigger part for Lohman.

If you like small off-kilter films (with big name actors having fun with their performances) you would be far better served by "Dummy" (2002) and "The Big Empty" (2003). "The Big White" tries for the feel of these two films but falls short.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child."