Sometimes you have a pretty strong feeling about a movie before you see it; my flop radar was going off like mad when I watched the trailers for Dark Shadows. This is the latest Johnny Depp/Tim Burton collaboration, which reimagines the 1960's TV gothic soap opera.
The movie just looked to be too pretentious, too smug, too indulgent. Still, I got a few laughs from Depp's performance and thought he might just be able to pull it off with his unique comedic abilities. The problem is the movie is not a comedy. It isn't a drama either. It is part camp and part horror flick and none of it works.
Depp plays Barnabus Collins, a man who was alive in the 1700's. He was in love with a woman named Josette (Bella Heathcote) but had a dalliance with a maid named Angelique (Eva Green). Angelique got her revenge by having Josette jump off a cliff and by turning Barnabus into a vampire. She could do these things because she was a witch. Then she added insult to injury by having the townspeople bury Barnabus alive.
Two centuries later Barnabus' coffin is discovered during an excavation and he is free to walk the earth once more. He heads to the family estate where he meets Elizabeth, (Michelle Pfeiffer) who is now the head of the Collins clan. She lives with her teenage daughter Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz), her brother-in-law Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), his son David (Gulliver McGrath), and David's psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter).
Elizabeth welcomes Barnabus even after she learns of his murky past. Together they work to restore the Collins family to their rightful place in the community. This is made more difficult by the fact that Angelique, now known as Angie, is a driving force in the town of Collinsport.
As all of this inane plotting is being set up, Depp flings himself into making Barnabus as strange looking and foppish as possible. His effete manner seems to be accepted by one and all and drives Angie crazy, as she once again desires him intensely. Of course there has to be someone there who is the reincarnated image of Josette and that turns out to be David's nanny Victoria.
The movie does have some comic moments but they are not enough to bring it to life. It all plays out like a joke in which only director Tim Burton and star Johnny Depp are on to the humor. They seem to be enjoying it immensely but the audience and most of the cast are scratching their heads and trying to figure it all out.
Pfeiffer seems bone weary throughout the story, while Bonham Carter seems to be in another movie altogether. Miller is totally wasted in a nothing role and Moretz is done in by the script, which turns insane at the end. Green is unappealing and silly.
The film is rated PG-13 for profanity and violence.
Usually Burton's movies are unique in look and style if nothing else, but here nothing seems to work. This film ends up being an indulgent mess that just bores the audience. This is Burton and Depp's eighth project together. It is time for them to break up and move on.
I scored Dark Shadows a nostalgic 4 out of 10.
Jackie K Cooper
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