Big Fish (2003)

The most normal Tim Burton film if there ever was one.

William Bloom (Billy Crudup) tries to learn more about his dying father, Edward, by piecing together disparate facts from a lifetime of fantastical tales and legends of epic proportions. Ewan McGregor co-stars as the young Edward, a traveling salesman, with Albert Finney playing him as an older man.

Usually, Tim Burton is amazing when he’s on his game and gives us such treasures as Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands, etc. But there are many countless other times where he is just lost and has nowhere to go but down with such trash like Planet of the Apes, Mars Attacks!, etc. This is one that falls in the category of him on his game a little bit.

This is a fairy tale mixed in with a lot of realism but still enough of that signature weirdness from Burton to make you remember that you are watching the same dude who did Batman. This film never seems to drag and that’s because Burton has such a vivid imagination that he can show such things as two Siamese Asian twins singing to Chinese Communists, a car underwater in a rain storm, a friendly giant, and plenty of other random and crazy things that happen but it all is done so well that you can’t help but smile.

At heart, this is actually a father-son drama that shows what happens when you tell too many fake stories, you actually end up becoming them. That right there I felt was a good message but how it all plays out in the end just didn’t do anything for me, much to my surprise. The ending is pretty obvious about 10 minutes in and to be brutally honest, it didn’t really have me choking up much in the end neither.

The casting in this film may be a bit flawed, but it still had it’s fair-share of good performances. Albert Finney is amazing as older Edward Bloom, but he’s playing him so much older and more sick than the character actually looks which kind of took me away from the film considering I liked the performance. Billy Crudup is OK here but could have done a lot more to add to the scenes with his daddy; Jessica Lange has some good scenes as Edward’s wife; Marion Cotillard is as amusing as ever as Crudup’s wife, Josephine; and Alison Lohman has some very good scenes as Edward’s wife, when she was younger.

I liked this cast even though they were a bit strange and to say the least I liked Ewan McGregor as Edward Bloom because even though his Scottish accent almost may seem to get a tad bit in the way of his deep Southern accent, I still really liked this performance from him. Edward Bloom is such a happy guy that loves telling stories because they make people happy. Everybody wants to hear the truth but everybody also wants to hear something that will make them happy and that is what Bloom is all about and Ewan totally throws himself into this great character’s mind. I don’t know if any of you have ever met somebody like Bloom, a person who just loves to tell stories and make the others around him laugh and smile, but I have and the power that the art of storytelling has is just a very beautiful thing and something that this film embraces so well.

Consensus: Though I didn’t feel as emotionally connected to this film as I would have liked to have hoped for, Big Fish is a good Tim Burton film that has some weirdness, a lot of happiness, and just a true message about the art of storytelling and how sometime hearing the fake story is better than hearing the truth at all.



  1. I never knew this was a Burton movie, so you are right about being one of his most normal movies 🙂 I only saw this once, but it’s a movie I quite liked.

  2. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it and yes, it was a major improvement over the Planet of the Apes debacle though I didn’t like some of the cinematography which was a bit overdone. Some of it did get boring while there’s also things I don’t remember. I forgotten that Marion Cotillard was in this film. Plus, it’s got the thing that I’ve disliked about Tim Burton in recent years which was his emphasis on CGI where it wasn’t bad here unlike in later films. Yet, it didn’t really do much for me story wise. I need to see it again to make a more rounded opinion.

  3. I enjoyed your review! One thing I view differently is the emotional impact. For me this is a very strong father-son movie. My relationship to my dad is fairly similar to the one of Bloom and son here and I think a lot of the emotion comes from the viewer being able to relate to their relationship. You may not have choked at the ending, but I did. Even if as you say it’s fairly predictable I don’t think it’s necessarily a movie that relies on any “twist”-sensations. Getting to know these characters and follow them as they grow to understand eachother is where it hit home for me.

    My favourite Burton-film and definitely worth a view, rental or otherwise!
    Thanks again for the review, was a happy read.

    • I guess I just wasn’t as emotionally connected as most viewers are but I still enjoyed the happiness this story brought along with it. Thanks to you man!

  4. Yeah solid Burton effort. I thought that there have been better father/son relationship movies, even in the sentimental milieu of this movie (Coupe de Ville, for example), but it was solidly constructed and fairly fantastical. I often consider Terry Gilliam’s adaptation of Tideland to be a bit of a nightmare hellish version of this. Favourite Burton film is probably Edward Scissorhands, closely followed by Beetlejuice, but I’ve actually a wee bitty of a soft spot for Mars Attacks. The latest Planet of the Apes movie really made Tim’s guff remake look even worse. Nice review Dan.

  5. You’re spot on about Burton being hit and miss. He certainly is.

    But I feel as though this movie is one of his home runs. One of the reasons WHY he’s such a big name in Hollywood.

    Perhaps because I DID connect with it. Totally. It’s a very emotional movie, and beautifully done. I have it very high in my list of favorite films (not top 20, but still…)

    • It’s good because it’s very emotionally there and has a very good story but there are times when it just doesn’t seem as great as it could have been.

  6. I saw this when it came out in theaters (hard to believe that was 8 years ago!) and really loved this movie. Love the “reveal scene” (don’t worry, I won’t give away spoilers) and what it says about story telling, just as you say here. Thanks for giving me a chance to remember this movie!

  7. As someone who really doesn’t care for Burton’s movies, it’s surprising that he has a film in my top 10: Big Fish. I have a bad . . . well, a habit of embellishing tales from my life, so this film touches me in a very personal way. By the end, I’m always reduced to a bluthering baby.

  8. I generally view the phrase “Tim Burton” as shorthand for “avoid this movie”. I seldom like any his work, and I tend to feel that, like a modern Ed Wood himself, he views “bizarre” as a reasonable substitute for quality. But I watched this, not knowing it was one of his, and it was quite watchable. The influence of Burton’s weirdness-fetish is still pretty clear, but it’s turned into a wistful surrealism here, which really worked well with the theme of the tall-tale-telling father. I think I’m pretty much where you’re at in terms of its overall rating.

  9. Love this film. I know everyone has their favourite Tim Burton films and they usually say Edward Scissorhands but I think this is right up there. I love the imagination in it and Burton’s visuals are fantastic.

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