Feb. 26, 2004 In a career spanning more than 40 years, Albert Finney has played a Polish pope, a Belgian detective, an Irish gangster, a British miser, a Scottish King, a German religious reformer, and even a Roman warrior. However, he'd never played an American blowhard, that is until director Tim Burton's "Big Fish."
Edward Bloom (Finney) loves to tell tales. Big tales, tall tales, endless tales. Now, as Bloom lays dying, he is still at it, reiterating the exploits that comprised most of his young life. Are they true? Well, the book by Daniel Wallace from which the movie is taken gives a hint: "Big Fish, A Story of Mythic Proportions."
Bloom's charm beguiles everyone with one notable exception: his estranged son Will (Billy Crudup). In hopes of a reconciliation, Will's mother, Sandra (Jessica Lange), summons Will home when Bloom takes ill.
So, there you have the crux of the story. Can Will come to terms with his dad's reality?
But that's the serious part. Let's get on to the stories. According to Chicago Tribune movie critic Michael Wilmington, "They give us a chain of doozies." Or, if you listen to Roger Ebert, "Isn't this doodling of a very high order, while he [Burton] waits for a purpose to reveal itself?"
Perhaps, but remember some say "Getting there is half the fun." And if you couldn't have fun with the cast Burton has gathered together here, well There's Danny DeVito, as the owner of a circus which Bloom joins; Steve Buscemi, with whom Bloom robs banks for a while; Helena Bonham-Carter; a glass-eyed fortune-telling witch Bloom falls for; and the two-headed, single-bodied Siamese twin entertainers, Ping and Jing, that he meets in Asia during an Army tour of duty. And, of course, we can't forget the title character, a monumental-size catfish.
"Like all Burton's work," Wilmington says, "this movie looks and sounds wonderful, thanks to collaborators such as cinematographer Philippe Rousselot, designer Dennis Gassner and Burton's constant composer Danny Elfman. More than that, screenwriter John August has crafted Wallace's string of poetic episodes into a story that has the ebb and flow of a tall-tale river, and Burton's wonderfully chosen cast leaps at the bait."
Then again, Ebert says, "Like Bloom, Burton has been recycling the same skills over and over again, and desperately requires someone to walk in and demand that he get to the point."
Though Wilmington is far more inclined to indulge Burton, he says: "A word of warning. 'Big Fish' is so strange and so literary that audiences seeking conventional fare may get impatient with it. But it always takes effort to catch the big ones. This one is worth it."
The young Sandra and Bloom are played by Alison Lohman and Ewan McGregor.
"Big Fish" runs 2:05 and is rated PG-13 for a fight scene and some images of nudity.
It's playing at Market Square East.
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