Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
No one expected giants, werewolves and conjoined twins to be grace notes in a Tim Burton film. But 2003’s Big Fish — Burton’s finest yet, setting aside ‘80s-youth nostalgia — found fantastic elements in the great unknown of everyday existence, where even the biggest dreamers sometimes find all they need in the smallest ponds.
Reliant more on powerful familial emotions than wacky splendor, Big Fish tread as close to our real world as Burton could — a melancholy dissection of paternal distance and never truly knowing how many lives those we love can truly affect.
Fish also had some of The Zeroes’ most inspired dead-ringer casting for aging characters — Alison Lohman to Jessica Lange, for starters, and Ewan McGregor to Albert Finney as Edward Bloom — the tall tale-telling father to a skeptical son (Billy Crudup) visiting home as Edward’s health fails.
Edward’s fanciful flashbacks — including a town with a manicured lawn where Main Street should be — make up much of Big Fish. But Burton relays them with the similarly quizzical characterization of a winking grandfather — Edward’s probably fooling, but a nugget of truth is probably deeply embedded somewhere within.
As far-reaching as Edward’s adventures seemed to be, the comforts of home, love, family and friendship ran as constants, and the embellishments he loaned them only made them funnier, weirder, sweeter.
Big Fish’s immensely moving finale never somberly dwelled on a death that we all perceived. Instead, it extolled, and expounded upon, the virtues of a generous life, lived openly and lived well.