In this 2003 dramedy/fantasy based on a book by Daniel Wallace, we follow Will Bloom, a newswire journalist in Paris (Billy Crudup), and his French wife as they return to his Alabama hometown upon hearing that his father Edward (Albert Finney) is on his deathbed. Will had not spoken to Edward for years due to the issues he had with his father’s tall tales, which he had believed for all his life before starting to question them as lies, and visits him for one final time in order to find out the truth and mend their relationship.
Throughout the film, Edward’s life is told through a series of flashbacks which brilliantly evoke his exaggerated tales, with the younger Edward played by Ewan McGregor, and featuring a very fascinating ensemble cast including Matthew McGrory, Steve Buscemi, Danny DeVito, longtime Burton collaborator Helena Bonham Carter, and a ten-year-old Miley Cyrus; Wallace himself also has a cameo in the film as an economics teacher.
The film’s story is almost perfectly suited for director Tim Burton, whose own father had died prior to production beginning (although Steven Spielberg, who we all know has his own repertoire of father-son relationship stories, had initially planned to direct before dropping out in favor of CATCH ME IN YOU CAN), although Burton really makes it his own by taking a delightful screenplay by John August and executing it with a visually striking Southern Gothic style. Also notable is the lack of digital effects in an era where they were particularly on the rise, instead mainly featuring effects such as forced perspective, animatronics, and prosthetic makeup (though one exception was made for digital color grading).
Overall, BIG FISH is an effective celebration of storytelling, and a very interesting if not overlooked chapter in the film canon of Tim Burton.