Burton’s Big Catch of the Day
|Starring:||Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Alison Lohman, Helena Bonham Carter, and Steve Buscemi|
Let me ask you something, fellow movie lovers…do you know your father?
No, I don’t mean the guy who drove you to school; the guy who gave you an allowance every week; the guy who taught you how to catch a baseball; or the guy who took away your comic books when you got an “E” in behavior…
I mean, do you really know your father?
What was he like as a kid? How did other people see him? What were his dreams? What were the experiences that shaped him? What did he like to do? What did your mother see in him? How would he like to be remembered?
These are just some of the questions that are raised in “Big Fish,” director Tim Burton’s beautiful, bizarre and glorious return to form after the disaster that was his ill-fated re-imagining of the classic “Planet of the Apes.” Bolstered by strong performances, stylish production values and Burton’s vivid imagination, “Big Fish” is a deeply personal, lovingly crafted and extremely moving film that will no doubt leave a lump in your throat the size of Alabama.
“Big Fish” tells the story of Edward Bloom (Albert Finney), whose colorful stories about his incredible experiences have touched the lives of many people — except for his estranged son, Will (Billy Crudup). When Edward comes down with cancer, his wife (Jessica Lange) summons Will to come home and reconcile with his father before it’s too late. On the surface, they may be worlds apart, but the more Will learns about his father’s amazing past, the more he realizes that he’s a chip off the old block.
With a long and illustrious career that includes classics like “Edward Scissorhands,” “Beetlejuice,” “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure,” “Ed Wood” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” there’s no doubt that Tim Burton is one of the most visionary filmmakers of the last 20 years. His attempts at more Hollywood-minded blockbusters may have been a little more inconsistent — ranging from hits like “Batman” and “Sleepy Hollow” to misses like “Mars Attacks!” and “Planet of the Apes” — but “Big Fish” proves that he’s still at the top of his game.
The irony is that it would take an expert storyteller to make a movie about an expert storyteller. As a result, the film is vintage Burton, filled to the rim with offbeat characters, quirky humor and magical whimsy. Though it can be uneven at times (with a tear-jerking climax that lays it on pretty thick), it still walks the fine line between being an enchanting fairy tale and a contemporary drama about family, estrangement and reconciliation.
The performances are mostly superb, with five-time Oscar-nominee Albert Finney leading the pack with a possible sixth nomination as the dying, but still bombastic father. Ewan McGregor misses his mark sometimes by going a little too tongue-in-cheek as Finney’s idealistic younger self, but Billy Crudup makes up for it with a powerfully restrained turn as Finney’s hard-edged son. As for the rest of the cast, the eternally beautiful Jessica Lange is deeply compassionate as Finney’s devoted wife, while Alison Lohman is a dead-ringer as the younger Lange in the flashback scenes.
If last year’s “About Schmidt” was the film that made you rush out of the theater to call your father when it was over, then this year, that film is “Big Fish.” Though they may be worlds apart on a stylistic level, their underlying message is clear. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with establishing your own identity and living your life, but there’s also nothing wrong with being proud of the fact that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.