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Big Fish (2003)
Rated PG13

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, and Billy Crudup

Rating:
****1/2
out of
*****

Will Bloom (Billy Crudup) is embarrassed by his father. Edward Bloom (Albert Finney) has to be the center of attention at all times. Even at his son's wedding, Ed Bloom has a crowd around him as he again tells the story of how he caught the "biggest fish in the lake" on the day his son was born. Yes, even on the day Will was born, his father was doing something grand. And when his son does something grand, its an opportunity to tell another story.

Unfortunately, Ed Bloom has a terminal disease and will not be around to tell his tales much longer. His loving wife, Sandra (Jessica Lange), who is unbothered by his incessant story telling, calls Will home to be with his father in what may be his last days. Will, seeking to connect with his formerly estranged pop, tries to find out the truth behind the stories and his father's past. So, in flashbacks, we see the young Edward Bloom (Ewan McGregor) in a series of episodes that explain how he met his wife, why he excelled at sports, his journey away from home and an incident with a witch that changed his life forever.

Tim Burton, who has a gift for bringing fantasies to life on-screen, handles the direction here with a new sense of maturity not seen in his past work. Rather than being a dark and gloomy film, like Batman or Planet of the Apes, Big Fish is full of color -- literally and figuratively. There's a unexplainable positive energy that pulses through the character of Edward Bloom and sparkles in the eyes of Ewan McGregor. One can't help but smile as the young Ed Bloom bounds from one adventure to the next with a ridiculous grin on his face.

It's seemingly infectious because almost every performance in the movie is smile-inducing. In particular, Matthew McGrory as Karl the giant, and Steve Buscemi as Winslow, the poet laureate of the hidden town of Spectre, are fantastic.

Big Fish is a great fantasy tale for adults. It's light entertainment with a few tear jerking moments thrown in for good measure. I had a grand time trying to anticipate what would be thrown at me next and being completely wrong every time. It isn't flawless but Big Fish is winning enough to overcome its slightly longer than necessary running time and occasional tangent-wandering to earn a whole-hearted recommendation from this reviewer.

Trivia: Ewan McGregor was cast as Young Ed Bloom when producers noticed the striking similarity between him and pictures of a young Albert Finney, who plays Senior Ed Bloom. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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