Welcome back to my series of Tim Burton reviews! I’ve been reviewing each and every film he has directed since December and now, I can say that we are halfway through this series of reviews. Big Fish came out in 2003 and is based on a book by Daniel Wallace, published in 1998. The film follows Will Bloom (Billy Crudup), who, after learning his father Edward (Albert Finney) has cancer, starts piecing together stories that his father has told over Will’s lifetime in order to learn more about him.
I can say that this is honestly my favorite Tim Burton-directed movie. In my Edward Scissorhands review, I said, “When Burton breaks away from his signature style of freak-show weirdness, it makes for an extremely more compelling experience.” That was pretty much directed at this movie. Yes, this is still a fantasy film. However, in the grand scheme of things, it is also a love story, in addition to being a dramedy. This is a mix of many different genres, and I love every minute of it. This film is near-perfection to me, so let’s talk Big Fish.
This film’s writing is superb. Every minute is well-written, and Ewan McGregor’s young Edward Bloom is perfectly cast and likable as well. The dialogue for the characters is exceptional, but I think it also helps how terrific the chemistry between the actors is. Each character gets so much development, and that is great for the story since there are so many characters in different plot points. For instance, Danny DeVito’s circus ringmaster only appears during the segments while McGregor’s character is working at the circus. However, the way he is portrayed and the comedic aspects about him make him a more well-rounded character.
The acting is also extremely good. This is a movie that deals with many emotional aspects, including happiness, love, & grief, and that emotion conveyed through the actors’ facial expressions and dialogue is spot-on. It really is a nice feel for a Tim Burton film. His films tend to be a little over-the-top and of a macabre type, so it’s refreshing to have something that isn’t Gothic all over. The transition between past and present is also very good. Since the majority of the movie is flashbacks, there’s a lot of shifting between time periods, but it works very well, and the editing is superb.
Another aspect that I just love is the story and the way that it is told. Edward Bloom’s tales are magical, funny, and are accompanied with beautiful scenery and visual flair. The wondrous worlds depicted in Edward’s stories, as well as the colorful characters depicted in them are just stunning. These feel so real because (as I previously mentioned) every tiny detail is fully realized, and perfectly placed to create one ginormous beauty. Colleen Atwood’s costume design also plays an integral part in shaping this world. Her costumes certainly add a bit more color to these characters, and it’s nice to see.
This is a short(er) review because, in order to give my full viewpoint on this film, I would need to delve into spoilers. Normally with a film that came out this long ago, I would end up spoiling some things, but it just doesn’t feel right for this type of film because it’s just one that you need to watch to gain the full scope of how great it is. Overall, Big Fish is a phenomenal film. With great writing, beautiful visuals perfectly fleshed out characters, and an amazing story, Big Fish most certainly earns the grade it gets: an A+.
Big Fish stars Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter, Alison Lohman, Robert Guillaume, Marion Cotillard, Steve Buscemi, Danny DeVito. Directed by Tim Burton.