Spielberg almost landed this one, but only Tim Burton has the vision and spiritual innocence to scatter such fairytale mood over a basic father/son story.
Edward Bloom (Albert Finney) is an ailing old geezer known for wheeling out a surreal mini-story of his life at the slightest provocation. His estranged son, Will (Billy Crudup), has long since removed himself from the fantastical hot air, but returns in search of truth and reconciliation when he hears Pa's dying of cancer...
For 90 minutes, Bloom's flighty yarns line up to be told in flashback - McGregor playing Young Ed with a spot-on air of naïve exuberance. He suffers a freakish growth spurt ("gigantificationism"), befriends a lonely giant, joins the circus, meets a witch (Helena Bonham Carter, natch) and wanders into a celestial small town where Steve Buscemi is the (terrible) local poet.
All of this is played out through Burton's sumptuous sense of visual melodrama (time literally stands still during a love-at-first-sight epiphany), until the final half-hour sees the director expertly fade out the fantasy ready for an emotional sucker-punch of an ending. Good job too, the shift occurring just as the colours threaten to run, the weird giving way to whimsy.
A hint of Princess Bride, a touch of Wizard Of Oz, a pinch of It's A Wonderful Life... Cynics may gag, but few films aim for both the heart and the imagination with such warmth and audacity.