What can easily be described as a more mature Burton film, Big Fish is certainly a return to classic Tim Burton elements, elements that were sorely missed in his beleaguered Planet Of The Apes update. Burton is able to wind between the whimsical and the serious, the laughable and the endearing, without getting too campy, too heavy, or especially too sappy, all of which this film could have easily become. Burton plays with the camera, the settings, even the actors, mixing up the environments, emotions, and motions, but never gets too risky allowing more subtle movements to occupy just as much screen time. However, perhaps some of Burton’s more extravagant (darker?) motifs would have made the more playful scenes of the movie even more magical.
Some of the tall tales told throughout the film were definitely reminiscent of Terry Gilliam’s Adventures Of Baron Munchausen, although Gilliam allowed the absurd to rule throughout in that one. Burton could have gotten away with allowing a little more madcap absurdity to creep in a permeate tiny areas, after all Burton and the fantastical are quite the compatriots and as tight as – dare it be said – Batman and Robin.
If anything, Big Fish proved that Burton can direct stars, stars who act on a higher playing field, mind you, that were as big as the movie itself. Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor prove to be just as magical as the story itself. A twinkle of their eye, a big smile, and the audience is ready to believe anything, especially the tales of one big fish from a small pond.