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Movie Review: 'Dark Shadows'

Dark Shadows

Starring Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bohnam Carter
Directed by Tim Burton
Rated PG-13

The first movie where I fully understood the world that is Tim Burton was Ed Wood.  I love Ed Wood, the black and white, Martin Landau telling us to “pull the string, pull the string” and Johnny Depp wasn’t who he is today, he was the guy who was carving out a nice little career with, well for lack of a better term, I’ll say quirky roles.  I loved Beetlejuice as a kid…loved it, still do.  And after I started to understand the Tim Burton world, I went back and watched Beetlejuice and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.  The movies were fuller and more realized in my eyes.  I was hooked.

 The Tim Burton world, with its macabre dark humor and weirdly interesting but yet strangely grounded characters was pretty alright.  I bring this up because I don’t understand the Tim Burton world anymore.  Hell, I don’t think he understands it anymore.  Dark Shadows, had it been done by Tim Burton, circa 1993 would have been every fans delight.  Dark Shadows made by Tim Burton circa 2012…not so much. 

Dark Shadows, based on the TV show from the 1960’s, introduces us to Barnabas Collins, who is living in Collinsport Maine in the 1700’s, running the family fishing business.  And son business is a booming.   Barnabas’ life is pretty good.  He lives in Collinwood Manor, is filthy rich and has fallen in love with Jsoete.  But you see Barnabas broke the heart of Angelique (Eva Green) and she is none to happy about it.  Angelique is a witch and being a witch comes in handy when you want to kill Barnabas parents, Josete, curse the Collins family and turn Barney into a vampire, leaving him to rot in a coffin for all eternity.   That is why I will never date a witch.

Cut to 1972: The Collins family, lead by Elizabeth (Michelle Pheiffer) is in a bit of a down turn.  Elizabeth,  daughter Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz) her brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller) his son David (Gulliver McGrath), Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bohnam Carter) who is helping David cope with the loss of his mother and newly hired governess, with and agenda of her own, Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcoate) are all living in Collinwood.  But as I stated before, life kinda sucks now.  Barnabas meanwhile is freed from his eternal coffin, finds his way back to Collinwood, finds the family is desperate need and decides to reclaim the family pride. 

It is at this point where the movie loses its footing.   But it may also be a fair assessment to say it never had any footing to begin with.    And with Barnabas discovering that he’s been away for a couple of centuries, the fish out of water theme comes into play.  But the movie doesn’t commit to it, so any humor that can come from this situation never takes hold.  Then we find that Angelique owns a rival fishing company that is thriving…and she still has a little resentment towards Barnabas and the Collins family from her broken heart.  The movie starts to take a darker turn but again, doesn’t commit to it. 

Then there is the issue of the characters.  This movie is loaded with talent.  This movie is also loaded with interesting characters and subplots, but no commitment is given to anyone except Barnabas.  Scenarios are introduced but nothing is fleshed out.  The movie just spends way too much time with Barnabas.  And while Depp is his usual dependable self, I wanted to know more about the Collins family.   What I got was moments where something is introduced (the oddest involving Carolyn towards the end of the movie that just comes out of nowhere) and then it’s back to Barnabas.  It’s as If Burton and company got scared that if Depp isn’t on screen enough, people will fail to show up.  Thanks for trusting your audience guys.

Burton of late has been a bit of a lame duck and I was really hoping Dark Shadows would finally give us the Tim Burton of old.  What I got was a movie, that had I not known Tim Burton directed it, would have never guessed it was directed by Tim Burton.

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