In the film, Bloom's grown son, Will (Billy Crudup) is tired of the imaginative stories his dad has told him since he was young, and decides to only communicate with his mom (Jessica Lange). But, as the elder Bloom approaches the end of his life, Will puts aside his differences and chooses to find the truth behind all the stories in hopes of learning more about his dad. The only way Will knows how to find the answers he seeks is to retell the stories and let us be the judge.
The tales Will recounts begin in a small Alabama town where a young Edward (Ewan McGregor) saves the townsfolk from a giant named Karl, whom he later befriends and joins on a wild journey to find a purpose in life. Their adventures take them over the river and through the woods to a one-field town called Spectre, where the shoeless inhabitants dance in the grass and worship the words of a goofy poet (Steve Buscemi). Edward and Karl do not find their destiny in Spectre, so the shoeless pair joins the circus.
At the next stop on their journey, Karl and Edward end up under the big top. While at the circus, Edward finds the woman he wants to marry, and when he does, time suddenly stops. Amos, the ringleader (Danny Devito) claims to know this woman; yet, he is unwilling to share this information with Edward. For the next three years, Edward is shot at, stabbed, and trampled for Amos's pleasure, but is also rewarded with the smallest details of his wife's identity. Edward and Sandy (Alison Lohman) eventually meet, and the elaborate fables continue with the details of their wedding, life together, and the birth of their son, Will.
In the telling of these elaborate tales, Burton has created his most quintessential fantasy to date where the story is an equal to the film's look. The dreamy and imaginative visuals of Big Fish are definitely on par with those of Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood, but what distinguishes his effort here is that visual world and the fantasies told by Edward are a complete complement to each other. The magical and inventive set pieces - a fog-shrouded forest with flying spiders; a circus ring where time stops and speeds up; a town set in the middle of a grassy pasture - all work to reinforce Edward's fantasy life.
Burton's film is not just a treasure trove of imagination; it's also infused with a cast of characters brimming with life and personality: a 10-foot awkwardly structured yet gentle giant; multi-personality circus performers; a glass-eyed fortune telling witch (Helena Bonham Carter); conjoined Korean twin night club singers; and one humongous catfish.
Despite all of the wonderful things Burton accomplishes with this fairytale, I couldn't buy into the father/son reconciliation storyline. Right from the beginning, we're told that it's hard to separate the facts from the fiction of Edward's life. It raises many doubts about who this man really is, and I found it hard to reconcile the stories. When the film reaches its quasi-sentimental conclusion, I felt nothing for the dying man. The ending is meant to shed some light on what was real, and what was not, but more than that, the contrivance is just an easy way to add a fairytale conclusion to this fable.
It's clear Burton fancies the fantasy more than he does a meaningful story. Like the stories told to us by our families' own Edward Bloom, you just accept the tales as the consequences of a wild imagination, and nothing else.
The DVD adds a commentary from Burton, a trivia quiz, and a pair of featurettes. A feature called "fish tales" pops up icons during the feature which take you on asides down these various vignettes.
I need your clothes, your boots, and your car.
Run time: 125 mins
In Theaters: Friday 9th January 2004
Box Office USA: $66.3M
Box Office Worldwide: $122.9M
Distributed by: Sony Pictures
Production compaines: Columbia Pictures Corporation, Jinks/Cohen Company, The Zanuck Company, Tim Burton Productions
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Fresh: 163 Rotten: 50
IMDB: 8.0 / 10
Director: Tim Burton
Screenwriter: John August
Starring: Ewan McGregor as Younger Ed Bloom, Albert Finney as Older Ed Bloom, Billy Crudup as Will Bloom, Jessica Lange as Older Sandra Bloom, Helena Bonham Carter as Younger & Older Jenny/The Witch, Alison Lohman as Younger Sandra Bloom, Marion Cotillard as Josephine, Robert Guillaume as Older Dr. Bennett, Matthew McGrory as Karl the Giant, David Denman as Don Price - Age 18-22, Missi Pyle as Mildred, Loudon Wainwright III as Beamen, Arlene Tai as Jing, Ada Tai as Ping, Steve Buscemi as Norther Winslow, Danny DeVito as Amos Calloway, Deep Roy as Mr. Soggybottom, Miley Cyrus as Ruthie - Age 8
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