Edward Bloom (Albert Finney) tells tales to anyone who will listen: how he caught the biggest catfish in the world but how he had to let it go at the risk of losing his wedding ring, how he saved a small town from a hungry giant (Matthew McGrory) and stumbled into a heavenly village after choosing the "road less taken" and how he worked for a circus master (Danny DeVito) who changes into a wolf at night.
Nearly everyone has been spellbound by Edward┬┤s terrific tall tales over the years except his son William (Billy Crudup) who comes home to take care of his dying father. William is determined to separate fact from fiction and find out who his father really is. As he says in the film: "We were strangers who knew each other very well".
Tim Burton takes the painful subject - an estranged son┬┤s reconciliation with his dying father - and portrays it in his usual masterful way through lightness and fantasy, instead of grim and hard facts.
The lack of faith that Edward┬┤s son shows in his father┬┤s fantastic tales is focused on by Tim Burton to shed light on America┬┤s ideas about its patriotism, pop culture and spirituality. "It┬┤s rude to talk about religion," says Edward at one point. There┬┤s no mention of God in the film, but there is a god who is very present in Burton┬┤s fantastical set pieces. Edward Bloom is like an apostle sitting on top of a mountain, telling stories about the founding of man and the founding of a nation. His life is a collection of bible stories that activate our spiritual curiosity. In "Big Fish" Burton asks us to cultivate myth over reason.
We never really know whether Edward Bloom is telling the truth or not, despite the "surprise ending". But it doesn┬┤t matter. Big Fish is sentimental but never manipulative. This film encourages us to live life not necessarily to its fullest, but with wonderment of our very existence.
"Big Fish" is wonderfully strange and literary. If you┬┤re looking for something conventional, you will probably get impatient with this film. But it always takes effort to catch the "big ones". This one is worth it. don┬┤t miss it!
Directed by Tim Burton
Based on the novel "Big Fish, A Story of Mythic Proportions" by Daniel Wallace
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter, Alison Lohman, Steve Buscemi, Danny DeVito
┬ę2003 A Sony Pictures Entertainment release of a Columbia Pictures presentation
Rating: PG-13 (not suitable for children under 13 years of age)