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Volume 6, Issue 2                                    University of Houston

Tall tales tell the truth in 'Big Fish'

By Dusti Rhodes
Breaking News

A story goes a long way if it's told in a memorable way. The driving force behind a story is not necessarily the plot or characters' plight, but the way the events unfold and are brought to life by the narrator --the storyteller. If told correctly, the story will be passed on by those eager to give their storytelling skills a try. The characters live on and their adventures are played over again, slightly changing each time because the point is not always to hit every detail but to keep the audience watching.

From director Tim Burton comes Big Fish --the tale of a storyteller, Ed Bloom (Albert Finney), as told by his son, William (Billy Crudup). Ed is dying and William comes to his mother's (Jessica Lange) aid. While most people are drawn to Edward's charming stories, his son William is not. William takes his father's tall tales and sets out to separate fact from fiction in order to find out who the character he calls his father really is. His journey takes audiences through his father's exaggerations and shows William that sometimes lies help make the truth unforgettable.

Fantasy and reality collide in the exaggerated storytelling of Tim Burton's Big Fish.

Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Burton leads audiences through Ed's life, but not in a style that many Burton fans would recognize. There are splashes of Burtonisms with grand displays of color and spooky props and scenes, but this movie is definitely a step back for Burton, whose films are usually full-fledged flicks filled with bold colors and elaborate backdrops. The larger-scale scenes are saved for Ed's tales and create good contrast from the neutral colors of the non-story scenes.

The actors realistic dialect keeps audiences from thinking the movie could have taken place anywhere else. The film has a country feel --reminiscent of Texas tall tales with hints of Twain thrown in. The stories, as they should, make this movie a winner.

The stories cover many aspects of life, but present them with a storyteller's twist. Ed depicts himself as a larger-than-life character. In childhood he is confined to his bed during an unusual growth spurt with nothing but an encyclopedia to keep him company. He reads an article about goldfish that says goldfish grow bigger if they are given the room to do so. A younger Ed (Ewan McGregor) decides his town is restricting the growth of his ambition and persuades a giant to move with him to the city.

He is fearless because when he is younger a witch's morbidly telepathic eye shows him how he going to die. He is a war hero who, upon stealing secret plans, rescues conjoined Korean singers who become lounge act stars in the United States.

John August's screenplay was adapted Daniel Wallace's book Big Fish, A Novel of Mythic Proportions. It is a movie for all ages that establishes that people shouldn't always search for the "real" truth.

Big Fish

Rated: PG-13

Columbia Pictures 

Starring: Albert Finney, Ewan McGregor

The verdict: People who never thought they could learn anything from fish, witches, carnivals, giants and daffodils have yet to catch Big Fish.

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