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I was a little leery about seeing Big Fish. I have liked a lot of Tim Burton's film's like Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, and Mars Attacks, but his last two movies, Sleepy Hollow and Planet of the Apes sucked pretty bad. And, the trailer for Big Fish looked like the movie could be very bad. But I saw it, and Glory Be to low expectations! I liked it. It's a very sweet little film. The plot involves a traveling salesman (Albert Finney) and his wife of many years (Jessica Lange). When it is learned that Finney is dying, his son (Billy Crudup) and daughter-in-law (Marion Cotillard) rush back home. Crudup and Finney are barely on speaking terms but both want to make their peace before it is too late. Finney is an inveterate storyteller, and his son doesn't know what is true and not true from his father's life. So we follow Crudup as he tries to separate fact from fiction. Finney and Lange's younger selves (Ewan McGregor & Alison Lohman) appear as their lives are retold. Finney/McGregor has had many adventures and meets among others, a circus ringmaster (Danny Devito), a famous poet (Steve Buscemi) and a witch (Helena Bonham Carter).
It is very hard not to get sucked into caring about what happens to Finney/McGregor and Crudup and hoping that all the stories will turn out to be true. That's the only thing in question as the Big Fish script follows the father/son relationship playbook. But, it is definitely a Tim Burton movie. It has all the weirdness you have come to expect, as well as the usual Danny Elfman soundtrack. Big Fish is saved by a sweetness combined with weirdness that is also strongly felt in Edward Scissorhands. All of the cast contributes to this feeling, especially McGregor and Crudup. And the French actress, Marion Cotillard, is a revelation. Ewan McGregor is amazing and fearless. He will play any part from Obi-Wan Kenobi to Rent Boy and do it well. Billy Crudup is not seen in very many films and they are usually Indie films. He is best known for Almost Famous and Jesus' Son. Standing out from the younger actors, Finney and Lange show what the old pros can do. And, Carter, DeVito and Buscemi do nice cameos. Only Alison Lohman ,(White Oleander, Matchstick Men)as the young Jessica Lange, is underutilized.
So, what can I say? As Big Fish approached its satisfying, dare I say, happy ending, my eyes filled with tears. Of course, this isn't a rare occurrence with me but it's always a good sign. Big Fish is a typically wacked-out Tim Burton film. And that is why it works. Burton should forget doing bad remakes like Sleepy Hollow and Planet of the Apes and stick to what he does best.