After a rather ordinary and somewhat pointless venture into the remake world with Planet of the Apes, Tim Burton is back on form with the whimsical and lively movie that is Big Fish.It is a film brimming with life that captures the audience from start to finish making it a very enjoyable journey into the wondrous imagination of Tim Burton and Daniel Wallace, the author of the novel on which it is based.
The tale is that of the life of Edward Bloom played by Albert Finney and as a young man by Ewan McGregor. Bloom is storyteller with a wild imagination who seems to have convinced even himself that his stories are based on facts rather than fiction. His son Will (Billy Crudup), however, is not convinced and decides that it is the final straw when instead of a typical father/son speech at his wedding reception, Edward tells an unbelievable tale that he has heard a thousand times before. Although Will was entertained by these stories when he was a child, he has now grown frustrated with the fact that it is impossible to get to know the ‘real’ Edward Bloom and as a consequence he does not speak with him for 12 years except vaguely through his mother, Sandra Bloom’s (Jessica Lange) letters. This communication breakdown changes with the news that Ed is on his deathbed. Will decides to travel to his parent’s house with his now pregnant wife Josephine (Marion Cotillard) in a final attempt to find out who his father really was.
Will soon finds out that there is has been no change in his father’s tales of fantasy and through a series of flashbacks we enter the magical world of Edward Bloom. His adventures start when he saves his town from a misunderstood giant named Karl whom he befriends and they set of to the big city together. Along the way Edward decides to take a short cut with the promise of meeting Karl along on the other side. Although the path is rumoured to be full of danger and the fact no one who has gone down there has ever returned, Edward cannot help himself. After battling the various hazards that the path serves up, he lands in a perfect town named Spectre where the inhabitants spend their days lazing about, eating fine food and dancing the night away. Even though Spectre is most people’s idea of heaven on Earth, Edward decides that there is too much to see in the big wide world before he could settle in such a place.
The story continues with how Edward met his first and only true love and the madness he went through in order capture her heart. There is a tale from his childhood about a witch (Helena Bonham Carter) he crossed paths once who revealed how he and a number of his buddies would meet their maker by just looking into her eye. Whilst these fables unfold, Will is becoming more determined to get to the bottom of his father’s true self and begins to investigate his life by searching his belongings and visiting the supposed landmarks of his yarns (such as the town of Spectre).
Burton’s visual flare is back in a huge way with Big Fish. The sets and cinematography are absolute eye candy for film lovers. It is shot with a dreamlike quality that is reminiscent yet not quite as dark as his classics such as Edward Scissorhands and Sleepy Hollow. The lead roles are acted flawlessly by all players and it is possibly the best ensemble for a Tim Burton film yet. The supporting cast and the characters that they play are equally fantastic with Steve Buscemi’s writer’s blocked poet, Danny De Vito’s circus ringleader and Helena Bonham Carter’s witch being the standouts. Burton even tracked down Billy Redden (the ‘banjo boy’ from Deliverance) for his second ever film role, once again sitting on a porch playing the banjo.Big Fish is definitely Tim Burton’s most sentimental film to date but is no less enjoyable than his earlier works. He has once again successfully achieved what the movie going experience should be about – escapism and sitting back being effortlessly absorbed into a place more extraordinary than reality. Big Fish is a gem of a film.