For everyone whose fathers ever regaled him or her with tales of the fish he caught that was “this big,” director Tim Burton gives us the aptly titled Big Fish, the story of son desperate to understand the man behind the myths his father presents as fact. Ed Bloom (Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney) is, by his account, an extraordinary man, with life stories that are impossibly embellished. After a lifetime of these tales, Bloom’s son Will (Billy Crudup) attempts to reconcile the rift caused by his father’s exaggerated fables and learn the truth that has forever eluded Will’s understanding of his father.
Unfortunately, Ewan McGregor is an actor who exudes such charisma onscreen that when Albert Finney takes over as the elder version of the character, I found myself disappointed and eagerly awaiting the next scene with McGregor. It becomes hard to love Finney when McGregor has the greater charm. In fact, the two actors are such dramatically polar opposites that it becomes hard to reconcile the two as a single character.
This film is a playground for the imagination. The stories Bloom tells are far-fetched and wholly unbelievable, but that doesn’t stop you from swallowing them hook, line, and sinker. The film stretches the scope of creative thinking to such an extent, that tall tales of giants, witches, and an un-catchable ghost fish seem entirely plausible.
Big Fish dramatically detours from Burton’s standard style, and I must admit my surprise at the ease with which he makes this transition. Although Burton’s talent is undeniable, his preceding projects stereotype him at the darker end of the film spectrum; this imaginative break opens the door for future equally imaginative films. Hopefully he will embrace this new method of filmmaking he has established for himself whilst maintaining his usually eccentric style.
Although the plot is moving enough to tug at one’s tear ducts, the means is so hackneyed that even the most obtuse and infrequent theater goer anticipates the ending long before the film progresses that far. Just because you see it coming, however, doesn’t mean your eyes remain dry. However predictable the finale may be, the journey is well worth it, turning an otherwise irritating film flaw into an endearing end. B+