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Review published
January 15, 2004
A.J.'s Rating: 4.5 Stars
Big Fish
Directed By:  Tim Burton
Written By:  Daniel Wallace (novel) / John August (screenplay)
Starring:  Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange,
Alison Lohman, Helena Bonham Carter, Steve Buscemi, Robert Guillaume,
Marion Cotillard, Matthew McGrory, Danny DeVito

MPAA:  Rated PG-13 for a fight scene, some images of nudity and a suggestive reference.

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    For his entire life, Will Bloom has heard his father, Ed Bloom, tell stories... big fish stories, tall tales, accounts of his experiences that might ring true, if only they weren't all so marvelously implausible.  When Will was young, he believed his dad's stories, but as he grew older, that sense of wonder gave way to the less whimsical realities of life, driving a wedge between them.  Now, with his father's health failing, Will has one last chance to get to know the real Edward Bloom.  For his entire life, Will Bloom has heard his father tell stories.  Finally, he's taking the time to really listen.
    Billy Crudup plays Will, who desperately wants to hear the true events of his father's life, in order to better understand who he really is.  Albert Finney plays the older Edward Bloom, the master storyteller who refuses to be bound by little things like facts, and whose own life is the greatest story he has ever told.  Within this amazing tale, Ewan McGregor takes over the role as the younger Ed Bloom.  Young Bloom is full of life, full of ambition, and, well, to be quite honest, full of himself.
    To some, this may seem a departure for director Tim Burton, the darkly off-kilter visionary behind such films as Beetlejuice, Batman, and Edward Scissorhands.  On the contrary, as far as emotional depth and symbolism are concerned, Big Fish is actually a return to form.  Most surprising is that, for Big Fish, Burton has found a more subtle visual style.  He wisely allows the story to flow without bombarding the audience with his customary low-key lighting and oddly-skewed set designs.  Mind you, these Burton trademarks are still present, but call much less attention to themselves.  As a result, the style of Big Fish never threatens to overshadow its substance.
    As for the actors, I found it interesting that Finney, Crudup, and McGregor were all performing under unusual circumstances.  Albert Finney in particular does a tremendous job with his role, especially considering that he's confined to a bed throughout much of the film.  Meanwhile, Billy Crudup has the thankless task of reacting, rather than acting, but does so with unwavering conviction.  And Ewan McGregor is basically having to act in a completely different movie.  Through skillful storytelling, strong emotional ties between all three characters are created and sustained.  In fact, these ties work on many levels, even though two of the characters involved are essentially the same person!
    Once in a while, a movie comes along that is inventive and entertaining, but also sparks the imagination.  It's a movie you think about long after you've seen it.  Big Fish is such a movie.  It has a little something for everyone.  Sometimes it's funny.  Sometimes it's sad.  Sometimes it's beyond belief.  It is what you make of it.  It's like a box of chocolates.  Okay, fine, I'll say it... it's a lot like life.