By Clint Morris | December 10, 2003

One man was offered the chance to be the next Elvis Presley, but chose to be an accountant instead. Another had an affair with one of the country’s biggest rockstar’s girlfriends. Another grabbed her children and hid under the table from a delirious spouse. A youngster boarded himself up in a house fearing his homicidal aunty would come knocking on the door. And another, well, he didn’t catch any fish one day, so he jumped the fence of a trout farm and stole all theirs.
They’re things that have happened in my family – Apparently. Chances are, they’ve been exaggerated to the extreme and one really doesn’t know what to make of it.
Will Bloom (Billy Crudup) has much the same impasse. His father, Ed (Albert Finney) the king of tall tales, is always telling of the extraordinary moments of his life – and, well, Will’s a little sick of it. So sick of it in fact that for three years he doesn’t talk to his old man. When he eventually does come around, Dad’s laid up in bed – dying from cancer. Journalist Will, whose penchant is dealing with the facts, doesn’t want to be hearing any more of Dad’s myths – which include stories about giants he befriended, giant fish and a heroic tour of duty – at least not until he ultimately realizes there might be a lot more truth to the story than he initially believed. Or wanted to believe.
If you’re a fan of Tim Burton, you’ll enjoy “Big Fish”, it’s got all the weird and wonderful elements you’ve come to expect and enjoy about the eccentric directors films and more. If you’re not a fan of Burton, you’re going to like it even more. It takes those oddities and twists that many don’t usually go for if they’re not a big fan of the director and interweaves them into a tale that’s so enriching, so heartwarming, so funny, so touching and so breathtaking, you’ll wonder why the king of wackiness didn’t branch out sooner. The film, adapted by John August from the 1998 novel by Daniel Wallace, blends the off the wall with the wondrously touching so well, that it’s possible Burton was born to helm it. After this, everyone will be somewhat of a fan of the man.
Ewan McGregor – who looks astonishingly like a young Finney in “Tom Jones” – is fantastic as the younger Bloom, whilst Albert Finney is as solid as always as the lively older version. Billy Crudup is equally as authentic and memorable as son, Will, and Jessica Lange, just a delight as Will’s mother and Ed’s long time love. And the supporting cast isn’t too shabby either. Danny De Vito, Alison Lohmann, Steve Buscemi and Helena Bonham Carter don’t have as much to do here as maybe they deserved, but they make the most of their few brief scenes by unearthing some outstanding characters.
The film’s closest cousin might be “Forrest Gump”, and admittedly that’s the easiest film to market this one (“this year’s “Forrest Gump”), but it’s also quite different from the Robert Zemeckis film. This is really the story of a father and son, not a dimwit. But what both films do have in common, is heart, “Gump” had it, and this one’s got it, possibly even more so. This is the tale of a duo that doesn’t really seem to know much about each other, except of course that Dad has some wild yarns. But it could just be those wild yarns that make the man. And inevitably, it does. And in turn, the outcome is an amazing motion picture experience.
“Big Fish” is a very special movie. See it with someone you love; or want to.
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