Big Fish is Tim Burton’s 2003 criminally underrated fantasy epic. It tells the story of Ed Bloom, a man with a loose relationship to the truth but a wonderous imagination. Ed likes telling stories, and the story of the day his son Will (Billy Crudup) was born is his favorite because it was on that day, he caught the biggest fish in the river using his wedding ring as bait. Adapted from Daniel Wallace’s “Big Fish a Novel of Mythic Proportions” this film is everything Tim Burton became famous for and more. Depicting a father and son trying to reconnect and adding in a backdrop of fantastic creatures, it truly is Burton’s hidden gem.
Fantastically Creative: Burton is known for the visual aspects of his films, even his two biopics Big Eyes and Ed Wood are treats for the eyes. Big Fish is no different. Ed’s stories are fantastical in nature filled with a giant, a witch, and one very large fish all existing in his wild past. Each of which is vividly presented to us thanks to that classic Burton Flair. The scenery is just as beautiful and captured in such an idyllic manner that makes you want to visit this strangely beautiful world developing before our eyes. The mixture of these fantastical beings and these serene environments is what makes Big Fish so fun to watch, but there is another aspect that makes it essential viewing.
Incredible Emotional Depth: Movies that make you feel something are always better than the ones that don’t. It doesn’t matter what the emotion is, only that you feel it and that it makes an impact. Big Fish goes about this in a heartfelt manner that leads to self-reflection, and for some, closure. At its core, Big Fish is about an estranged father and son reconnecting as Will desperately tries to find the truth in his father’s stories. This relationship is the heart of the film and encompasses almost the entire film's emotional center and the father/son themes resonate profoundly. Seeing a father tell his son the stories of his youth is inherently touching, but when Ed does it, everything is so much more profound and more impactful. This movie is about never losing touch with your imagination and remembering things in the best way possible, as Ed’s stories show us. The most crucial aspect of Big Fish’s emotional impact is that it is tethered to reality just as much as it is to fantasy, so none of the messages get lost in the fantasy world, it all transcends through to Will and then to us.
Performances That Stay with You: In 2003, Ewan McGregor was still in the middle of being Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars Prequels, it’s no wonder this is a movie many of his fans miss. However, his work here is one of his finest performances ever. McGregor comes to life on-screen whenever the old Ed begins to tell a story. He plays the young Ed in a whimsical and often quite funny manner that makes him out to be a talented and likable young man. He nails every aspect of the character and allows you to feel his determination to find what he wants in life even though he doesn’t know what that is. The other great performance is that of Albert Finney who passed away earlier this year. This performance is one of my favorites from his entire legacy. Old Ed is more aloof than even his younger self and manages to twist every conversation into a story and to put it simply, Finney was a born storyteller. His performance here is one where after you’ve seen it you can’t imagine any other actor doing it; this role is all him. He’s endearing, witty and funny all the way through and by the end, his genius performance will stay with you.