• I approach Tim Burton films with a certain trepidation. Will it be "Edward Scissorhands" or "Batman II?" With Burton you could get a quirky comedy, a dark thriller, or sweet morality tale. And there's always the possibility of Danny DeVito chomping down on a raw fish.

    "Big Fish" combines Burton's unusual humor with a heart-wrenching story of a father-son deathbed reconciliation. Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor share the role of Ed Bloom, one of the big fish from the movie's title while an SUV-sized catfish plays the other. Bloom is a metaphorical and literal big fish in the small pond of Ashton, Alabama in this tale told mostly through flashback. Jessica Lange plays his wife and Billy Crudup plays the son, Will, estranged from his father for the past three years. Father and son are reunited as Finney lies dying of cancer.

    Ed Bloom has spent his life spinning his personal history into mythological proportions: an early encounter with a very tall man becomes a battle with a house-sized giant; a rural village is depicted as heaven on earth; military service during the Korean War morphs into a behind-the-lines mission that would make Duke Nukem proud. Originally a true believer, Will now knows everything his father has told him was not just an exageration or even a tall tale but an outright lie. In his effort to understand the truth behind his father's stories he learns to love the man as well as the mythology. And Burton delivers a terrific punchline at the end of the film that left me both tickled and weeping, a truly weird emotional state.

    Burton deals with mythic themes in "Big Fish." Besides the surface story of the generational tension between father and son he explores the metaphor of the big-fish-in-a-small-pond by examining the impact Ed Bloom has had on the lives he's touched in his workaday contacts with colleagues, customers (he's a traveling salesman), and people in the small towns across the South. Not exactly "It's A Wonderful Life," he still manages to show how all of us -- even the little fish -- have profound effects on the people around us. And of course love -- unrequited and reciprocated -- control almost all of Ed's many adventures.

    The acting is wonderful. You will actually believe two Brits and a Scot (Finney, Helena Bonham Carter, and McGregor) are natives of small town Alabama. Lange brings dignity and brio to the role of the long "suffering" wife -- and she still looks great(!)-- you believe she has had a long and loving life with Finney/McGregor. DeVito is a delight in the role of a circus ringmaster. But the scene-stealer is Bonham Carter in the dual role of Jenny and the crone witch.

    I rated this movie ten stars and when you see it you'll do the same.