Big Fish is a 2003 film written by John August and directed by Tim Burton, based on the novel by Daniel Wallace.
Will Bloom, a journalist (Billy Crudup), returns home with his wife to visit his dying father Edward (elder played by Albert Finney, younger played by Ewan McGregor). He is displeased to find that his father continues to tell the same old tall tales he's told all his life, and has now enraptured his wife. Still, he's determined to write his father's story, and searches for some of the people his father crossed paths with. The further he searches, the more he finds that those stories might not be as far-fetched as they once seemed.
- Anachronic Order: Sort of. Edward's childhood encounter with the Witch is one of the first stories that he tells Will. We later learn that she was inspired by the adult Jenny, who began living alone after Spectre dried up and Edward rejected her. Because of the Unreliable Narrator, it's hard to tell where/if the latter events fit into Edward's tall tales, but it's still Lampshaded by Will.
Will: Well, logically you couldn't be the Witch because she was old when he was young.
- Calling the Old Man Out: Will pulls this on Edward at the beginning, accusing his father of being a self-centered asshole who hides behind tall tales because they're easier to deal with than the real world. The rest of the movie follows his attempts at reconciliation.
- The Catfish: The first of many tall tales spun by his father, notable for its occurrence during his son's birth.
- Combat Pragmatist: Edward's calm answer to the North Korean duo's intimidating display of skillful martial arts is a pair of Night Vision Goggles... and a total blackout.
- Conjoined Twins
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: It's implied that Norther Winslow becomes one on Wall Street after robbing banks doesn't work out so well.
- Crap Saccharine World: Played with. There's nothing really wrong with the town of Specter, it appears to be just as nice as everyone says it is. But its perfection is...unsettling, in a way that's hard to define, but still undeniable.
- Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Invoked. Norther Winslow tries to make it as a professional thief, but it doesn't work out because Texas oil speculation has bankrupted the bank that he tries to rob. His response?
"I should go to Wall Street. That's where all the money is.
- Dark Is Not Evil: The Witch.
- Death Is Dramatic: Subverted. Edward dies quietly in the hospital after a stroke, but as he's fading out, Will tells him a far more dramatic story of how he always imagined the Edward Bloom of the tall tales would meet his end. Edward's last words are "Exactly...".
- Does Not Like Shoes: The eternally barefoot population of Specter. A rare plot important example, because stealing new visitors' shoes is how the townspeople keep them from entering the forest to leave the town.
- Foot Focus: Quite a plenty of everyone in Specter, naturally. It's also how Edward realizes he's speaking to an older Jenny.
- Foregone Conclusion: INVOKED. Edward knows how he's going to die, which hilariously lets him out of another life-threatening situation when he points out this isn't what the vision showed.
- Gaussian Girl: Both the young Sandra and Jenny share this when they're in a rather romantic scene.
- Genre Shift: In-universe example. While Will's framing story stays constant, Edward's stories range from horror (the Witch, the Giant), to fantasy (Spectre, the Circus), to Romantic Comedy (the courtship of Sandra), to war (the Twins), to crime drama (Norther Winslow).
- Gentle Giant: Karl.
- Glamorous Wartime Singer: The Siamese twins Edward encounters when he accidentally parachutes into an enemy performance; they agree to help him if he finds a way to get them to the America. (In the end, it's revealed they weren't actually conjoined, although they were twins from Siam.)
- Grand Romantic Gesture: Edward stages several of these to win over Sandra, the biggest being the field of daffodils-- 'cause they her favorite flower.
- Because Tim Burton wanted to avoid CGI in this film, those are all real daffodils.
- Ironic Echo:
Jenny (age 8): How old are you?
Edward: Your name's different. Did you get married?
- Lighter and Softer: Surprisingly, one of Tim Burton's more recent films that isn't dark or gothic.
- Love At First Sight: Edward upon first seeing Sandra.
- Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: Turns out the Old Witch is actually a very depressed and lonely Jenny. (The only thing crazy about her is the large amount of cats living with her). Edward was telling the truth, but he just exaggerated the story and the kids took his word literally.
- The Munchausen: Subverted.
- Only a Flesh Wound: Edward is accidentally shot in the shoulder in one scene, but even immediately after it doesn't seem to affect him much.
- Quirky Town: Spectre.
- Refusing Paradise: Edward Bloom's decision to leave Spectre. He essentially states that while he'd be happy to end up there eventually, he has to live his life first.
- The Reveal: Edward Bloom passes away, drawing quite a crowd to his funeral. All the stories he told turn out to be true.
- But not entirely. The stories are revealed to be true, only exaggerated. The twins are real, but not really conjoined; the giant is real, but only eight feet tall instead of twenty-odd feet tall; Amos Calloway is real, but probably isn't really a werewolf, and so on.
- Scare Dare: Here it's an abandoned house. It's a witch. For real. She is also the unlucky Love Interest, living backward in time.
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: One possible interpretation of Don Price (see Alternative Character Interpretation). As a child, the Witch showed him that he would die at a very young age, and he became terrified of dying alone. As a result, he became incredibly possessive of Sandra, the first girl who agreed to marry him. Then, when Edward made advances on Sandra, Don beat him to a pulp. His violent actions shocked Sandra so much that she left him, and the physical exertion from the fight caused him to die of a heart attack at age 20. Just as the Witch predicted.
- Separated At Birth Casting: Jessica Lange doesn't look much like Alison Lohman... now. But go and watch her in the early [dead link] 'eighties.
- Shrouded in Myth: Ed's particular problem, which has caused a few years of estrangement. No one can tell which stories he tells are true and which are just him spinning yarns.
- Single-Target Sexuality: Edward Bloom. His son Will thinks he had an affair with Jenny until it turns out that it was completely platonic.
- Not for lack of trying on her part.
- Something Completely Different: Go back and check. This is the first Tim Burton film to depict a functional American family whose members, while they certainly have their eccentricities, most definitely do not hate each other and are able to resolve internal conflicts with love and tolerance (contrast Beetlejuice, where the Deetzes do get their act together in the end, but it literally takes a trip to Hell and back for them to do so). Also, the dark/magic world is fully reconciled with the real world.
- Spiritual Successor: To Forrest Gump. Think about it.
- Stan Winston: Responsible for the quirky fairytale characters, not to mention realistically-aging Helena Bohnam Carter to an old lady and back.
- Sweet Home Alabama
- Tall Tale: Played with.
- This Is My Story: "In telling the story of my father's life, it's impossible to separate fact from fiction, the man from the myth. The best I can do is to tell it the way he told me." (although slightly subverted into a sort of This Is His Story As He Told It To Me).
- When Trees Attack: Soon after leaving Spectre for the first time, Edward is ambushed by a group of trees whose intents are far from friendly. However, it's hilariously subverted when Edward remembers how he would die in the Old Witch's magic eye and exclaims "This isn't how I die!", making the trees leave him alone immediately.
- Wicked Witch: Averted.
- Wolf Man: Danny Devito's character is revealed to be this.