First of all, “Big Fan” was not made with me in mind. As someone who was confused for the first fifteen minutes of the film (wait…I thought the Giants were in San Francisco?!) many of the jokes were just plain wasted on me. There is way more than jokes to this movie though, and as a film fan – not a sports fan – I was able to enjoy myself despite the incomprehensible references.
Paul is a thirty-something parking garage attendant who lives with his mom and LOVES the Giants (New York) enough to watch every home game from a portable TV set up in their parking lot. Every night he carefully drafts his comments for a late-night sports radio show that knows him as “Paul from Staten Island.” He sleeps with NFL bed sheets and wears his Giants jersey like a uniform. One night Paul spots his favorite player, Quantrell Bishop, and decides to follow him around New York, only to end with Quantrell beating the hell out of him. Suddenly Paul’s devotion is tested when he must make the hardest decision of his life.
So apparently some dude shot himself in the leg recently and the Giants sucked it up before the Superbowl? That’s what people have been telling me about lately when I talk about the plot of this film, because the coincidence is a bit eerie. But this movie is not really about The Giants. After his overreaction, Quantrell Bishop is never seen again (except in Paul’s somewhat homoerotic dreams) and there are never any clips of The Giants actually playing. Instead, this is a film about obsession (director/writer Robert Siegel quips, “the whole point of the film is to relate sports fans to the Islamic Gihad.”
) – and whether it’s a religious, political, social, or spots obsession, this is a subject anyone can relate to.
After writing “The Onion Movie” and “The Wrestler,” Siegel seems to be trying something a bit different. Somewhere between a comedy and drama, “Big Fan” contains the kind of human emotion I would like to see more of in my sports films (Not that “D2: The Mighty Ducks” is lacking). “I see it as a drama,” Siegel says, “There’s some a*****e on IMDB that keeps changing it back to comedy…show yourself!…I certainly don’t see it as “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.”” Even though “Big Fan” produces lots of laughs, he’s right in some ways. At least half the film is spent in contemplation with Paul as he struggles through some issues that may seem funny to us at first, by quickly become as dramatic and Paul thinks they are.
But as a drama, Siegel has taken some creative license. If, for example, you are familiar with the law in any way, you are going to have to suspend some major disbelief, as “Big Fan” bases a large part of its plot on lawsuits and behavior that is unlikely, if not impossible. Also, cinematography that may be overlooked in a comedy, comes across as far too basic in a drama. The simple shot/reverse shot seems forced at the most dramatic moments, and totally natural during comedic exchanges.
Because of this drama/comedy tension, “Big Fan” comes across as a little uneven, but far from unsatisfactory. Patton Oswalt is sympathetic (at times heart breaking) and makes the film completely worth watching.