Hooked on “Big Fish”


Everybody loves a tall tale every once in a while. Sometimes though, our relationship with storytelling is complicated when the lines between fact and fiction are blurred.

Such is the problem for Will Bloom (Billy Crudup) as he tries to piece together the life of his dying father, Edward — a life which Will knows nothing about.

“Big Fish” is a charming film with a simple premise: For Will to understand and forgive his father before he dies. Based on a 1998 novel by Daniel Wallace (also called Big Fish), Tim Burton’s film revolves around Edward (who in old age is played by actor Albert Finney) and his chronic storytelling.

A unique aspect of “Big Fish,” though, is that even as Edward is telling stories on his deathbed, we see those stories played out by a younger Edward (Ewan McGregor) in the form of flashbacks.

The primary storyline follows a 19-year-old Edward Bloom as he outgrows his hometown and sets out to meet the woman of his dreams in a larger than life adventure.

The film is the perfect hybrid between “Forrest Gump” and the “Wizard of Oz,” which makes it uncharacteristically light and fun for a Tim Burton film.

When I see a film is directed by Burton, I usually know, with a degree of certainty, what I’m getting myself into. Fair warning: “Big Fish” is not one of those films. Jack the Pumpkin King is nowhere to be seen, nor is there any gothic, macabre aesthetic to speak of.

There are some things which are pretty consistent with what you might expect from him, though. It’s become a Burton staple to feature his partner — Helena Bohnam Carter —as a quirky, eccentric female role in his films.

“Big Fish” is no exception as Bohnam Carter plays a witch with the power to show young Edward his death through her glass eye.

The soundtrack fits the film perfectly ­­­­­­­­­— it glides through the film like a trance and really aids in intensifying some of the more emotional parts of the film.

It was composed by a regular collaborator with Burton, Danny Elfman, and there is also an original song by Pearl Jam.

Burton’s tone is unmistakable: “Big Fish” is a fanciful exploration of storytelling and human self-delusion; it’s about fact and fiction; and perhaps most affectingly, it’s about father-son relationships.

At this time, I think an obligatory shout out to young Miley Cyrus is in order; she gets a brief cameo as an 8-year-old vehemently pursuing Edward Bloom, and it is definitely something to watch for.

“Big Fish” has its fair share of quirky humor which comes in various forms, such as Mr. Soggybottom, a circus clown by day, werewolf by night and a conjoined set of Korean twins named Ping and Jing that prove two of Edward’s most steadfast allies. (I don’t get it, either.)

The film is a vivacious visual marvel that brings Edward’s tales to life. I’m not going to guarantee you’ll cry and I’m not going to spoil anything, but there’s definitely some potential for a nice sob towards the end.

“Big Fish” is worth watching again and again, and I would unreservedly recommend you watch it.