Dark Shadows Movie Review
Review by Ian Forbes, Sobering Conclusion
Goth. Goth. Goth. Johnny Depp. Goth. Goth. Goth. Helena Bonham Carter. Goth. Goth. Goth. Danny Elfman.
What Tim Burton movie am I talking about? What Tim Burton movie am I NOT talking about?
In this particular case, the subject matter is Dark Shadows. Based (every so loosely) on the TV series, Burton clearly was a fan of the show. To show his love, he essentially made a movie with his usually cohorts, made sure it felt like Charlie & the Chocolate Factory meets Corpse Bride with a fair sprinkling of Sleepy Hollow thrown in – and then scribbled in some character names and details after the fact.
Although I’ve only seen a handful of original episodes, the genres are miles apart and this is yet another adaptation that could best be described as baffling. You love the source material, and yet you alter it so as to be almost unrecognizable to its fan base? What’s the point? Why not just ask to do some commentary on the recently released DVD box set and call it a day?
Then there’s the continued collaboration between Burton, Depp, Carter (and Elfman). The world gets it. You all like each other. While there are a number of folks happy to see you repeat the same character dynamics over and over and over again, at some point it’d be nice to see some variation to the formula. Isn’t it enough to go to dinner with each other now and again? I hear Depp has a nice place in France you can visit.
Now sure, this review clearly isn’t of the positive persuasion, but before anyone interested in seeing this film plunks down their $53 at the box office, there’s one key thing I want to make sure you know. You’ve seen the trailer, right? Isn’t it just so adorable seeing Depp play an awkward character out of his particular element (in this case, the 200-year fish out of water cliché). Well, I hope you don’t expect any laughs to keep going when you get in the theater.
While the trailer makes this out to be some offbeat comedy, 90% of the jokes have already been shown. Worse still, although this carries a PG-13 rating, the sexual and violent themes have a much more adult-oriented feel. The marketing is hoping their net will catch the same wide demographic that Alice in Wonderland received but it’s all a smoke-screen when you sit down to figure out who the true demo should be: only the diehard Tim Burton fans. Anyone else is better off saving their cash for laundry, tollbooths, and cappuccinos.
Putting aside all of the typical Burton-esque touches, there’s the fundamental problem of the movie being boring and plodding along its predictable path to its perfunctory conclusion. The only unexpected element comes from a revelation regarding Chloë Grace Moretz’s character … and it’s only unexpected because it makes NO SENSE and does NOTHING to help ANYTHING (no, the caps lock button is not having problems).
In any case, Tim Burton appears to remain stuck in goth neutral. Aside from 2003’s Big Fish, his best days were in the last millennium (when his skewed perspective didn’t feel like a Hot Topic t-shirt). Dark Shadows merely continues a string of uninspired work. If it were just the problem of repeating the same things with the same people, this would merely be another forgettable nothing that will probably earn far more than it deserves. That the movie is such a scattered and lackluster mess makes it slightly more memorable … just not in a good way.
Dark Shadows hits theaters on May 11, 2012 and is rated PG-13 for comic horror violence, sexual content, some drug use, language and smoking.