Director: Tim Burton
Writers: Seth Grahame-Smith and John August
Cast: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jackie Earle Haley, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Lee, Helena Bonham Carter and Eva Green
Studio: Warner Brothers
“Dark Shadows” suffers from being a fan film. That’s not to say fan films are bad, it’s just that they can’t stand on their own. Whether it’s “Superman Returns” or a kid shooting a shot-for-shot backyard version of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, it’s just not the original. Johnny Depp works well in the 1700s, as he gives us a reason for why Barnabas is the way he is. But, it all goes downhill from there. Too often, Burton feels a push to give into the weaker nature of the script. It’s almost as though they have to keep calling attention to the 1970s or else the Hot Topic kids will tune out. However, I have a hard time seeing kids understanding a lot of the culture roughly 40 years away from the film.
Tim Burton and Johnny Depp work well together, but they only possess one mode. It’s like friends trying to work together and knowing each other’s comfort level. They don’t mind working in the rut and sometimes it produces amazing results. What we have here is the celluloid equivalent of an off day. There’s nothing terrible taking place, but there fans will be frustrated at how Burton hasn’t shown any signs of advancing post Sweeney Todd. The work with the cast is there, as everyone does their best to work with the material. However, very few of the cast can actually rise above the 70s joke and laughing at the undead fish out of water.
Michelle Pfeiffer is the MVP of the flick, as she takes charge in a mainstream movie in a way that I haven’t seen her do in a decade. While “Stardust” was good, it didn’t echo the talent displayed in her younger years. While having to play the straight man role, Pfeiffer escapes most of the forced story elements that come later in the film. A lot of that has to do with the character. A lot of it also can be chalked up to the fact that she isn’t Helena Bonham Carter. Still, she can deliver the material with a straight face and make it sound smarter than it is.
If I take away one thing from my time in Collinsport, it’s an appreciation for good intentions. Between the multiple shots of the tide crashing against the shore and the 70s horror cinematography aesthetic, Burton’s heart remains in the right place. However, the film is a lazy marathon of speeding through a fan’s checklist of moments. Nothing feels earned, as new audiences are getting a cheat sheet of what made the original show work. The only thing they were missing was a slapdash seance with a stagehand walking through the background.
RELEASE DATE: 05/11/2012