|Big Fish (2003)
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter, Danny DeVito, Steve Buscemi
Director: Tim Burton
Tim Burton is notorious for his strange and imaginative films, driven by his tall-tale stories and uncomfortably eerie and eccentric characters. This successful formula remains largely unchanged with "Big Fish," only this time around Burton offers us a much more optimistic tale of one man's ambitious adventures and travels in a world that's just not big enough for him.
Known and adored for his unlikely but exhilarating stories, Ed Bloom (Albert Finney) sits on his deathbed shortly after the marriage and abandonment of his only son Will (Billy Crudup), whose own love for his father is challenged by the truth and honesty their relationship has lacked throughout the years. Believing the tales he heard as a child to be no more than fantastical lies, Will sets out to prove that his father's life is simply a work of fiction, with Ed's storytelling serving as the narration throughout.
Traveling from his hometown to a secret utopia city and beyond, Ed's adventures (depicted through a much younger man played by Ewan McGregor) include a companionship with a giant (Matthew McGory), an encounter with a witch whose glass eye (Helena Bonham Carter) predicts the onlooker's death, a run-in with a werewolf circus ringmaster (Danny DeVito), his marriage to wife Sandra (Jessica Lange) and his one-year tour in Korea with the U.S. Airborne.
While most of his magical stories seem to be wholly impractical including the account of the fish that stole his wedding ring, which serves as the inspiration for the film's title, audience members will be fascinated when they discover there is more truth behind Ed's outrageous tales than his son believes.
McGregor and Finney are wonderful as the young and older Ed Bloom, both displaying his eccentric delight for life to perfection yet still portraying the exceptional man very distinctively in two different stages of his life. The story, adapted from a novel by Daniel Wallace, also represents a unique challenge for Burton, who gives stunning life to Bloom's fantastic world while closing with a kind-hearted ending we rarely see in any of his prior films.
"Big Fish" is an enjoyable film for almost anyone, gradually playing out in much the same way as the series of unbelievable events that occurred in "Forrest Gump." The film's core is all heart, but surrounding the dramatic moments is a pure sense of humor that generated more genuine laughter than any comedy I've seen in recent years. "Big Fish" comfortably sits in my Top Three Films of 2003, alongside distinct favorites "Kill Bill: Volume One" and "Pirates of the Caribbean."