In a strangely un-strange fashion, Tim Burton's latest film is drawing a fair amount of praise for his adaptation of Daniel Wallace's Big Fish. Though not completely without Burton's unique vision of the surreal, his latest venture is more dramatic than weird, and more lighthearted than the typical dark slant he gives to his movies. Even in different territory, however, Burton seems quite capable of delivering quality art.
Big Fish tells the story of a young man that is trying to figure out the true life of his father, Ed Bloom, who is on his death bed. You see, Ed has the tendency to make any of his life stories into tall tales, and so it is hard to determine what is real and what is not. There's the story of the big fish and the wedding ring, the secret town of Spectre, the giant that ate dogs, his job at the circus, his time fighting overseas, and so forth... What really happened?
Big Fish is a unique blend of drama, comedy and light fantasy that all work quite well together. The movie does not look anything like Burton's other films; in many ways, it looks and feels like a typical family drama. Of course, as the story goes on, Burton's flare of surrealism creeps in as Ed Bloom's various stories are described; there are the twisted trees, the towering giant, the creepy witch (played by Helen Bonham Carter, Burton's girlfriend) and so forth. Sprinkled with comedy, Big Fish is all around a very enjoyable ride that can appeal to people of all ages.
The movie is most graced by the presence of Ewan McGregor, who plays the young Ed Bloom. McGregor, who has quietly become a top grade leading man, is excellent here, portraying an innocently ambitious and heroic figure that could only exist in tall tales. McGregor is fun to watch in most movies, and is no different here; his natural wit and charm work perfectly. Complimented by other good performances, such as Albert Finney's older Ed Bloom and Jessica Lange's Sandra Bloom, there is definitely no problem with the acting.
The movie only stumbles slightly in a few parts where the movie really doesn't go anywhere. I found my mind wandering a couple times at various parts of the movie; there are moments when the story just isn't that engaging. It needs a little more excitement, adventure or comedy. That being said, the other 90 percent of the movie is consistently fun to watch.
As far as award nominations go, I do not really see a place for Big Fish, at least not in the Best Picture category. It is a fun movie, but is just not powerful enough to warrant huge critical praise. This is not because of any shortcomings of the movie specifically; the story just doesn't warrant awards. Big Fish is entertaining to watch, especially with Burton behind the wheel, but a story about a man's fantastical life just isn't going to win me over come award season.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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