Friday, May 14, 2004

It's Thursday so here's a video review, of Tim Burton's superlative "Big Fish" --

‘Big Fish’ a magical treat of a movie
It’s one of the clichés of movie criticism to call a film “magical.” But there’s no better word to describe Tim Burton’s wonderful “Big Fish.”
A stirring flight of fancy and giddy romance, “Big Fish” is a movie that any dreamer will love. It’s Burton’s best movie since “Ed Wood,” and maybe his best of all. Burton has made a lot of visually amazing films with terrible plots or scripts, like the “Planet of the Apes” remake or “Batman Returns.”
But “Big Fish,” adapted from a novel by Daniel Wallace, is perfect for Burton — a sprawling, scattered tale of fathers and sons, truth and fiction, and a plucky young man’s epic journey.
It’s the tale of the life of Edward Bloom (Ewan McGregor as a young man, Albert Finney as an old man), who either was the biggest hero in Alabama’s history or the biggest liar of all time. Now, Bloom, fighting a losing battle with illness, has a rocky relationship with his son Will (a subdued Billy Crudup).
Will has listened to his father’s broad stories for all his life, like how he caught the biggest catfish in Alabama on the day Will was born and that’s why he couldn’t be there. He’s bitter at his father, but now that the older Bloom is dying, Will wants to connect.
The movie flashes back and forth between Bloom’s fantasy-filled adventures as a young man — joining a circus, finding secret societies, road trips with giants — and his son’s attempts to find out the “truth.” In the end, however, we learn that maybe the difference isn’t all that important after all.
McGregor is his usual winning self as the can-do Bloom, filled with a jaunty confidence and sense of wonder. He’s an eternal optimist, always chipper but never annoying. Finney is more realistic yet hopeful as the older Bloom, while Jessica Lange and Alison Lohman are glowing as older and younger versions of Bloom’s beloved wife. Supporting work from Danny DeVito, Steve Buscemi and Helena Bonham Carter is also superb.
Burton piles on everything from witches to circus freaks to war heroics in this movie, and it all somehow worked for me. Plots have always been Burton’s weak point, so a movie where the lines between fact and fiction constantly blur works to his strength.
“Big Fish” is like a slightly grown-up version of “Alice In Wonderland,” blended with glimpses of the real world. It’s also, like all Burton’s movies, a visual marvel. It’s full of light and color, and quirky details abound.
Cynics need not apply — flush with the power of storytelling and the glories of imagination, it’s a movie incapable of irony. But once you’re swept up in its spell, “Big Fish” is a catch worth savoring.

**** of four

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