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The Reviews :: Big Fish
Reviewed by Megan Larson

Stories are much more interesting than truth. Edward Bloom thinks so, and has spent years weaving fanciful tales about his life. Bloom’s adult son, determined to find out the real story behind his father’s “lies”, brings these stories into question.

Tim Burton’s new film isn’t as dark as many of his previous creations (Edward Scissorhands and Sleepy Hollow, to name two), but he still delivers a unique vision: that of what we see through Edward Bloom’s eyes.

Throughout the movie we are treated with Bloom’s version of his own life, while he lays sick in bed. Bloom’s adventures began as a child when he saw his death in the eye of a witch, although he is set on his life path as a teenager, when he meets a giant. Together they set out to find their fortune in a big city, for each realizes they are a big fish in a small pond. Along the way, Bloom experiences the best apple pie ever, a werewolf attack, World War II, and falling in love. In the stories Bloom is presented as a witty, intelligent, capable man, with a matching grin provided by Ewan McGregor. This is set to alarming contrast with the older Bloom (Albert Finney), as we see him frail and sick – obviously not the man he once was, or purported to be.

The film brings up an interesting question: can you believe in fairy tales when you are all grown up? After all, many of us grew up believing in Santa Claus, monsters under the bed, or the man on the moon. However, after a while most of us dropped these notions for the truth. Bloom’s son is this side of us; questioning everything he has been told over the years. Of course, once you know the truth, we often realize that fancy is better – our parents sneaking around after midnight don’t quite compare to a man with magical elves and reindeer.

Each actor in this movie is excellent, no matter how small the part. Steve Buscemi’s poet Norther Winslow steals a few of the scenes, as well as the young, impish Jenny. Jessica Lange plays the older version of Bloom’s wife with elegance, while Alison Lohman is perfectly sweet as the young version. However, Ewan McGregor definitely is the one who makes the movie what it is, for no other actor could bring such a level of honest charm to the role of the young Bloom.

Since we are meant to believe the flashbacks are all fabrications, Tim Burton is able to let the imagination fly within them. Parachuting into the Japanese version of a USO tour, wrestling with the largest catfish in the river, or being able to walk through a scene frozen in time all seem more possible. Also, Burton’s use of color and tone help set the appropriate mood for each scene. The flashbacks are vibrant and full of color, while the “real world” is dim and grey, providing yet another allegory between the two lives of Edward Bloom.

This is a fantastic movie that provides not only laughter but gives pause for thought at the implications of it all. Even the most cold hearted of people can enjoy it – this heartwarming tale could move a rock.

Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Jessica Lange, Alison Lohman, Billy Crudup, Helena Bonham Carter, Loudon Wainwright III, Steve Buscemi, Marion Cotillard

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