Tim Burton’s new movie Dark Shadows may not be one of the famed director’s masterpieces, but it still provides some superfluous cinematic fun.
The TV series re-make is packed with star power, from Johnny Depp to Michelle Pfeiffer to Helena Bonham Carter, and full of laughs even if Burton stops short of really going for his usual full-out twisted humor. Depp plays Barnabas Collins, an 18th century playboy-turned-vampire who was captured and buried in a small fishing port town in Maine. He is dug up by some unfortunate construction workers in 1972 and immediately proceeds to feast on them—he was “very thirsty” after all. He then makes his way back to his old home, Collinwood Manor, and finds it in a state of melancholic eccentricity and disrepair. The rest of the film takes us for a stroll down memory lane as Barnabas encounters the bitter ex-girlfriend, Angelique (Eva Green), who helped imprison him and tries to redeem his washed-up family.
While Dark Shadows is indeed entertaining in that campy, cult classic kind of way, the entire movie is characterized by the feeling that none of the actors really wanted to invest 100% effort into their performances (with the exception to Green, who is surprisingly hilarious as Depp’s vindictive ex). Bonham Carter doesn’t quite put her performance as the strange psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman into hyper-drive and Depp, who always takes his role immersion to extreme lengths, seems to be operating at about 50%; but then again, 50% in Johnny Depp world is something that most actors can only dream of—in other words, he still hits the bulls eye.
The problems mentioned above may hinge upon the fact that the actors had little to work with from the start; Seth Grahame-Smith’s script is tepid and borderline boring despite the fact that it is stuffed full of bizarre associations and pop culture references.
The bottom line: of the movies playing now Dark Shadows is by no means the worst and by no means a waste of your time and money. But if you are a Tim Burton fan, you will likely be disappointed by the film’s lack of cinematic courage—it takes the safe route rather than the strange one.