'And what I recall of Sunday school was that the more difficult something became, the more rewarding it was in the end.'
Big Fish feels like 'It's A Wonderful Life" if none of the bad stuff happened to George Bailey, and Frank Capra dropped acid watching 'The Wizard Of Oz', then made this movie right after - thus, the movie 'looks' Tim Burton, but feels a lot more wholesome.
Big Fish is the story of a son who's attempting to make heads and/or tails of his Dad, who has a habit of telling a story about his life, then expanding it in a way that is impossible. He tells tall tales. Big fish stories, if you will.
But really this is just a setup for awesome vignettes, all delivering an old-fashioned earnestness that harkens back to simpler times that never really were, from circuses to childhood mischief to romance.
There's a scene where Ewan McGregor ganders at a girl under the big top. Their eyes meet in the crowd, time slows down, and in a flash, she's gone. He falls instantly in love with this woman in the way we were told it would happen, but rarely does.
What follows is a series of events that would make anyone's heart grow three sizes. To a bright smile juxtaposed elephant poop, to a field filled with a sea of bright yellow daffodils, to a monologue that is so sweet it gives you cavities, to a fist fight McGregor refuses to take part in because 'he made a promise', Big Fish becomes movie Synesthesia. Synesthesia causes your brain to correlate sounds into shapes, colors, and patterns. It's nature's Winamp visualizer, and only one in two thousand people have the right hardware to run it.
This movie does the same thing, but it goes from your eyes and ears to your soul. On the surface this means the flick wants to make you feel sad, or excited, or scared, but there's an involuntary element, too.
There's no telling what sliver of your psyche a powerful scene will slam into windshield of your mental dashboard. In this case, the scenes involving this grand romance will remind you of the one who got away, or the one you caught and held onto.
Big Fish is great at this sort of thing, all the while never explaining its motivations, so everything is ambiguous enough to keep you guessing. Is Spectre a metaphor for heaven or hell? Does it matter? Does it matter if the story's real as long as the morals are?
And God help you if you've lost a parent at any point in your life, getcyha tissues ready. By the end of the flick you never get the answers to the questions the movie asks, but that's okay. In this case, the questions let your imagination fly high and wide, and answers would only bring you back to boring, bland, droll, reality.