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Big Fish (2003)

An adventure as big as life itself.

Rating: 9/10

Running Time: 125 minutes

UK Certificate: PG

Before reviewing any film, I generally try – not always successfully – to avoid reading or listening to any outside blurb. The run-up to my trip to see ‘Big Fish’ was one of those occasions when something managed to slip through the net – in this case, news that this was director Tim Burton abandoning his trademark dark side and going squarely for fluffy-hearted cheeriness. Worrying stuff indeed. After being so thoroughly disappointed by 2001’s ill-advised ‘Planet of the Apes’ remake, I didn’t know if I could handle a second consecutive Burton let-down.

Having now seen it for myself, I don’t know what I was so concerned about. Not only is ‘Big Fish’ a truly fantastic movie – it’s quite possibly Burton’s best ever. It’s the tale, told predominantly in flash-back, of one man’s weird and wonderful life of discovery on the road. His name is Edward Bloom and, if we’re to believe the many stories he has to tell, his bygone years have unfolded like a modern day fairytale – only in many cases much more enchanting. He’s encountered giants, jumping spiders, witches, bank robberies, conjoined twins and, of course, one extremely big fish.

Albert Finney captivates the audience as the old Edward Bloom, reunited in the present day with estranged son Will (Billy Crudup). Equally enjoyable to watch is Ewan McGregor (whose passable Alabama accent isn’t the only thing in the film reminiscent of Forrest Gump), playing Edward as a young man. There’s also a fantastic supporting cast including Helena Bonham Carter in a dual role, Steve Buscemi as a poet who suffers for his art, and a perfectly cast Danny DeVito as a carnival ringmaster.

‘Big Fish’ merges the real and the fantastical in a way that, in the hands of another director, may have seemed awkward and nonsensical. With Burton at the helm, the separation between fact and fiction never seems to matter. This is a truly magical film and Burton’s the only man who could ever have delivered it. It’s good to have you back, Tim.

It's Got: A genuinely touching ending that had several people at the screening I attended reduced to slightly-embarrassing sobs.

It Needs: To be seen by absolutely everyone – young and old.


This is already looking like a strong contender for best film of 2004.