Published on May 10th, 2012 | by dvdpinson0
Dark Shadows: One Remake too many for Burton and Depp
There is a greasy spoon restaurant near where I live called “Jimmy’s” and when I first noticed the place I grew very excited. According to the signage in the windows, “Jimmy’s” has a little bit of everything. Chinese food, donuts, Philly cheese steak, fish tacos, etc. And being a man of many tastes, I am fan of Chinese donuts and Philly fish tacos et al. But after a few high caloric visits I grimly realized that the quality of the food was lacking, bad in fact, and that by focusing on so many different cuisines the hash slingers at “Jimmy’s” never got really good at any one of them.
Director Tim Burton’s latest parade of the bizarre, “Dark Shadows,” is a cinematic version of my disappointing greasy spoon. The mash up movie is a horror film that forgets to be scary, a melodrama without a hint of emotion and a comedy that bashes its one joke to un-death. Misguided and uneven, “Dark Shadows” should have focused on the cheese steak.
The Collins family has a rich history fraught with tragedy. Living in a dilapidated and failing mansion near the coast of Maine, the once proud clan has seen better days. Lucky cousin Barnabas (Johnny Depp) has arrived to right the ship. He also has a score to settle. Nearly 2 centuries ago, Barnabas lost his parents and most cherished love Josette (Bella Heathcote) by the hand of the dread witch Angelique (Eva Green). She then (somehow) turned the poor cad into a vampire, locked him a coffin, and buried him. All because her affections were unrequited. Pretty harsh.
Once Barnabas is released he finds a world foreign and curious. It is 1972 and to most of today’s young audience the setting will seem just as alien. This “stranger in a strange land” concept is all the film every gets going for itself but this wears thin. “Dark Shadows” is a retooling of a trippy gothic soap opera that ran from 1967 to 1971 and would seem to be prime source material for Burton and Depp. The film presents a mere caricature of the “Me Decade” with lava lamps, Volkswagen buses and an Alice Cooper that seems a bit too old to make any sort of sense. Much of the movie involves a puzzled Barnabas trotting around, poking at the things around him with his fake, claw-like fingertips while sporting a confounded look that never shifts. This gets old very fast.
The repetitive flogging of “Dark Shadows” one good idea is not the only issue. Burton never settles on a tone for the film. Barnabas comes across a true villain at times, pointlessly killing innocent victims after moments that are meant to be funny. The effect is off putting. There are also some uncomfortable attempts at sexual humor that do not fit the mood and call to question the film’s PG-13 rating. With so many shifts in tone and intent it’s hard to imagine what film Burton was actually trying to make.
“Dark Shadows” marks the 8th collaboration between Depp and Burton and it is more than evident that the duo needs to shake things up. Depp has made his mark as a chameleon performer, transforming himself with each role. Depp is stuck on repeat here, with the same scowl and accent he gave us in “Sweeny Todd”.
Burton has become the king of the reimagined movie and seems satisfied with peddling nothing but remakes. Examples: “Alice in Wonderland,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Planet of the Apes”. Somewhere along the way he has decided that you can rehash any movie you like as long as you intercut an origin story into it to give the main character some undiscovered motivation. “Dark Shadows” proves that this has devolved into a lazy way to make movies. His next film will be the stop motion animated “Frankenweenie,” a reworking of his OWN short film. The snake has begun eating its tail.