A review of “Big Fish” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: **

Rating: PG-13 for language and adult situations

Run Time: 2 hours

 

 

Deviant director Tim Burton treads the brackish waters of family relationships with mixed results.

Edward Bloom (Albert Finney) is a master tale-teller, most of them tall and all of them the life of the party.  His gargantuan wanderlust has afforded him a lifetime of material; from the four corners of Alabama to North Korea and fraught with monsters, Siamese-twin lounge singers and one very big fish.

Edward’s estranged son Will (Billy Crudup) is not amused.  Not by his father’s outsized truths or by his apparent inability to divorce fact from fiction. Will has left the family to escape his father’s far-reaching shadow, only to find himself drawn back in when Edward is taken ill. What follows is Will’s personal journey to reconcile himself with the man and the myth that is his dad.

The majority of Fish’s whimsical narrative is told by Edward the younger (Ewan McGregor), whose mythical exploits with a one-ring traveling circus, journeys alongside Karl the Giant (Matthew McGrory), and multiple encounters with a glass-eyed witch fill Fish with colorful inanity.

Fantasy is a tenuous technique that must strike the perfect note in order to suspend disbelief. Think Amelie or Field of Dreams.  That said, the project lacks credibility by pushing the delusory envelope. Burton’s sets and situations are consistently imaginative, but his Coen Brothers-esque script and chimerical storytelling is alternately too quirky and too schmaltzy to support Edward’s ridiculously misfitty fables.

Surprisingly, the current-day tensions lend a bit of intrigue and a sense of familiarity.  Mom Sandra’s (Jessica Lange) attempt to reunite her boys reeks of frustration; the real kind to which real folk can relate. 

I suspect that to love Big Fish is to fall for Edward’s capricious melodramas.  I found them mawkish, meaningless and altogether too narcissistic. Edward’s swaggering confidence is ripe with bravado, barely masking an obnoxious ego and monstrous insecurity.   Color me a scrooge, but this is one big fish that I can’t swallow.