After a string of mediocre movies, director Tim Burton regains his footing as he shifts from macabre fairy tales to Southern tall tales. Big Fish twines in and out of the oversized stories of Edward Bloom, played as a young man by Ewan McGregor (Moulin Rouge, Down with Love) and as a dying father by Albert Finney (Tom Jones). Edward’s son Will (Billy Crudup, Almost Famous) sits by his father’s bedside but has little patience with the old man’s fables, because he feels these stories have kept him from knowing who his father…
After a string of mediocre movies, director Tim Burton regains his footing as he shifts from macabre fairy tales to Southern tall tales. Big Fish twines in and out of the oversized stories of Edward Bloom, played as a young man by Ewan McGregor (Moulin Rouge, Down with Love) and as a dying father by Albert Finney (Tom Jones). Edward’s son Will (Billy Crudup, Almost Famous) sits by his father’s bedside but has little patience with the old man’s fables, because he feels these stories have kept him from knowing who his father really is. Burton dives into Bloom’s imagination with zest, sending the determined young man into haunted woods, an idealized Southern town, a traveling circus, and much more. The result is sweet but—thanks to the director’s dark and clever sensibility—never saccharine. Also featuring Jessica Lange, Alison Lohman, Helena Bonham Carter, Danny DeVito, and Steve Buscemi. —Bret Fetzer
Barnes and Noble
Filmmaker Tim Burton’s apparently boundless imagination finds inspiration in Daniel Wallace’s colorful novel, making this adaptation a delight for fans of both. In the waning days of his life, Edward Bloom (Albert Finney), a seemingly ordinary man who has crafted an elaborate personal mythology, hopes for reconciliation with his adult son, Will (Billy Crudup), who has grown alienated by his father’s stubborn adherence to tall tales. Some of these tales are presented in flashback form, and it’s in these sequences that Burton’s skill at visualization is really put to the test. He paints Bloom’s dream world with vivid colors and peoples it with sharply drawn characters. Ewan McGregor plays Edward Bloom as a young man, and he brings an almost childlike sense of wonder to the proceedings—a quality that’s vital to sustaining the willing suspension of disbelief you’ll need to fully appreciate the film’s charm. Finney has the difficult task of exhibiting passion and vigor in a decaying body, and though he plays most of his scenes in bed, he still manages to make Edward a boyish romantic. Jessica Lange is equally effective in the role of Bloom’s adoring wife, the ageless princess to his Prince Charming. And Crudup perfectly conveys not only Will’s nagging irritation with his father but also his less-obvious envy of the older man’s ability to transcend the realities and heartaches of the workaday world. Burton has often copped to making films as a way of retaining his own youthful sense of wonder, and it’s easy to tell that he relates to the character of Edward Bloom. As the film winds down, Will finally comes to grips with his father’s character, and he begins to understand the introspective process by which people evaluate their successes and failures as they age. That’s a valuable lesson to take away from Big Fish, but Burton doesn’t hit the viewer over the head with it: He makes Big Fish an enchanted and entertaining journey, filled with extravagant imagery and beguiling characters. Ed Hulse
Director Tim Burton’s adaptation of author Daniel Wallace’s bittersweet Southern Gothic novel has been billed as his first mainstream character drama, a notion that conveniently ignores the story’s inherent fables and flights of imagination. But composer Danny Elfman understands their every dark nook and murky cranny with this magical, often deftly understated score. While the epic melodrama of his comic book scores (Batman, Spider-Man, The Hulk, et. al.) have made him a mainstream Hollywood music star, longtime fans know that the composer’s…
In his prime, Edward Bloom was an extraordinary man. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do—and do well. He could outrun anybody. He never missed a day of school, even in the worst blizzard. He saved lives. Animals loved him, people loved him, women loved him. He was an inspired salesman—a visionary, in fact. And he knew more jokes than any man alive. Or at least that’s what he’s told his son, William. William doesn’t really know his father because, actually, Edward wasn’t home all that much. What William knows about his father he’s had to piece together from the little bits of stories he’s gathered over the years. Now, watching his father die, William grows increasingly desperate to know him before it’s too late. And in a wonderful sleight of hand, William recreates his elusive father’s life in a series of legends and myths inspired by the few facts he knows. Through these tales, William begins to understand Edward Bloom’s great feats—and his great failings. He manages, somehow, to reckon with the father he’s about to lose. And he finds a way to say good-bye.