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flick pick | Big Fish 2003
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Daniel Wallace (novel), John August
Starring: Ewan MacGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: drama
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something: artsy-fartsy, whimsical
The critic says: / 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: /5 

Plot synopsis 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.

Review 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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