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Ed Bloom tells the best stories. He's the center of every gathering and
has an amazing ability to charm everyone around him -- except his son
Will, who after a lifetime of hearing his father's tales, can't help but
feel that the propensity for exaggeration that makes his dad such a good
storyteller has kept Will from ever getting to know anything about who
his dad really is. Will's a journalist: he likes the truth, and his
father's fantastical stories strike Will as a pathetic attempt for Ed to
make up for his dull, traveling salesman life. When his dad tells one
tall tale too many on the night of Will's wedding, Will decides he's had
enough, and decides to stop speaking to his dad altogether. Years later,
Will's living abroad with his wife, their first child on the way, when
he receives a phone call from his mom. His dad is dying. With mixed
emotions, Will heads home, and finds himself revisiting the myths and
legends that make up all he knows about his father's life.
Tim Burton has a great eye for creepy-beautiful visuals, but too often,
his movies have left me disappointed when they offer little substance
beyond the wonderfully weird eye candy. Big Fish is a Tim Burton
movie through and through, but it's the first I've seen since Edward
Scissorhands that's left me satisfied on a level beyond the
mostly superficial (although I also adore The
Nightmare Before Christmas, which Burton wrote but didn't
direct). Big Fish features plenty to feast both the eye and the
imagination -- Burton, like Ed Bloom himself, is a gifted storyteller
who knows how to bring a story to vivid life. The flashback fantasy
sequences are just plain fun to watch, as we see a young Ed, well-cast
in the form of Ewan MacGregor, glimpse his future in the eye of the town
witch, leave home on a long roadtrip accompanied by a giant, join a big
top circus run by a werewold, and lure the love of his life away from
his childhood rival by transforming the yard in front of her college
dorm into a vast field full of her favorite flowers. But it's the
present-day, real-life scenes that make Big Fish more than a
pretty flick to watch. Even as we find ourselves charmed by Ed's
fantastical tales, we can't help but sympathize a little with son Will,
who can't get a straight answer no matter how hard he tries to convince
his dad that he wants the facts, not the fiction. It's a complicated
relationship in which neither father nor son can really be pinned down
as the bad guy; they just don't really get another. The real-world,
small-scale family drama seems at first to prove that the grand,
simplistic fable that Ed's spun out of his life is just a big fat lie.
But when the film reaches its conclusion, in a terrific sequence in
which myth and reality finally come together into something approaching
a logical whole, we suddenly understand. Fairy tales might not stick to
the facts, but they still manage to capture what's really important. —reviewed
by Yee-Fan Sun
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