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WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 14, 2004
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Reel View
By Nicole Shelton and Laurie Davis

A delightful fish tale; a forgettable teen romance

"Big Fish" is the story of Edward Bloom, a man who loves to tell tales. The taller the tale, the better. Bloom, played by Albert Finney, likes to tell the facts of his youth in a more interesting way and takes the liberty of adding detail he calls the "flavor" of a story. His stories — some filled with giants, witches and unbelievably large fish — are freely told over and over and enchant almost everyone who hears them, except his son, Will. Now an adult himself, Will Bloom, played by Billy Crudup, comes home to his dying father's bedside to try to separate fact from fiction. Will feels that he's never really known his father.

"Big Fish" is a whimsical, entertaining movie that's an adventure for the eyes as well as the heart. Director Tim Burton concentrates most of the movie on the fantasy life of Finney's character. In the past, Burton has made films that were pretty far out like "Beetlejuice," "Edward Scissorhands" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas." He has been criticized by some loyal fans because "Big Fish" is more appealing to the mainstream. Compared to his other projects, it is tamer, but it is still a delightful fantasy that took a wonderful imagination to create. Ewan McGregor does a fantastic job playing the wide-eyed Edward Bloom in his youth. Other characters, played by Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter and Danny DeVito, also do a wonderful job.

Reel View: "Big Fish" is rated PG-13 for mild language. I took some 9-year-olds with me to see if they would enjoy it. They said they did, but on the ride home, I realized that they had no idea what had gone on. The story line would be hard for the younger set to follow. I recommend "Big Fish" to anyone over 12.

— Nicole Shelton

"Chasing Liberty" stars Mandy Moore as Anna, the 18-year-old daughter of the President (Mark Harmon) and first lady. Her dating life is stifled by the Secret Service agent tag-alongs. Anna accompanies her parents on a state visit to Prague, where she pleads with her dad for one night on her own and a side trip to the Annual Love Parade in Berlin. He agrees to a night with only two agents, but no Berlin. While out clubbing, Anna realizes her dad broke his promise by sending the entire Secret Service crew. In retaliation, she escapes with the help of a handsome stranger, Ben (Matthew Goode). Thus begins a whirlwind tour of Europe with Ben, who, unbeknownst to her, is an agent assigned to protect her.

"Chasing Liberty" is a romantic teen flick with a tinge of reality, a cute star, a hot male lead with an accent to boot and lots of pop music and romantic, European scenery. It is nothing heavy. An awkward subplot is the budding romance between two lead agents (Jeremy Piven and Annabella Sciorra), who independently are charming but not as a couple. Moore and Goode have chemistry and are fun to watch. I was disappointed that Moore's character insists on sleeping with Ben to prove her love and complete her adventures.

"Chasing Liberty" is rated PG-13 for sexual content and brief nudity, which includes Anna going skinny-dipping in the Danube River (you see only the back of her), and Anna and Ben waking up together in a sleeping bag, implying sex.

Reel View: A teenage romantic comedy with appealing characters — Moore and newcomer Goode — rounded out by a mediocre supporting cast.

— Laurie Davis

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