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Big Fish

Reviewed By Elaine Perrone
Posted 07/21/04 18:52:26

"By all means, catch this Fish!"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

With Big Fish, Tim Burton ventures into almost mainstream-movie territory, and does so beautifully. Of course, Tim Burton's version of mainstream still includes an abundance of quirky characters such as Karl (Matthew McGrory), a 7+ foot-tall giant; Norther Winslow (Steve Buscemi), a blocked poet who breaks out of his slump in quite an astonishing way; Amos (Danny DeVito), a lycanthropic circus ringmaster; and Ping and Jing (Ada and Arlene Tai), Siamese twin performers who entertain the military troops at WWII USO shows. Too, all these Burtonesque characters populate a landscape featuring his trademark eye-popping jelly bean colors, stunningly photographed by Philippe Rousselot.

The real stars of Big Fish are Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor as Edward Bloom, traveler and raconteur, beloved by all whose tales he collects and freely shares. Playing the women in Edward's life are Jessica Lange as his wife Sandy; Alison Lohman, who bears an astonishing resemblance to Lange, as her younger self; and Helena Bonham-Carter as Jenny, his great friend and unrequited love.

With the exception of one, all the performances are lovely, with the standouts being Finney, as the older, bedridden but still garrulous version of the larger-than-life storyteller, and Lange, as his wife who is as much the girl of his dreams after 30 years of marriage as she was on the day their eyes first met. The chemistry between these fine veteran actors is palpable, all the more impressive in that this is the first time the two have performed onscreen together.

The only weak link is Billy Crudup, whose performance as Edward's estranged son Will seems curiously flat for a character in the emotionally wrenching situation of trying to effect a reconciliation with his dying father.

My only other quibble is with an intrusive use of voice-over narration, which never lets the viewer forget that this is an adaptation of Daniel Wallace's book, Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions.

To my mind, "Edward's Excellent Adventures" are in and of themselves wonders to behold, manifesting themselves in scenes such as time stopping in a circus tent, with kernels of popcorn suspended in a dazzling moment of love at first sight; the young Edward wooing Sandy from a glorious field of yellow daffodils, his dopy grin remaining wide even after hes floored, literally, by her current boyfriend; and Danny DeVito...well, you just have to see him. The last thing we need is someone expositing what we can plainly, joyfully, see and hear for ourselves.

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