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There are two great ways to have fun in this movie. It’s fun to watch Barnabus Collins deal with being in a new time period. That setup is fun. But there’s bonus fun to be had in just watching Johnny Depp BE in this movie. He’s just having fun and it’s contagious.
Johnny Depp plays the aforementioned 200+ year-old Vampire Barnabus Collins, who’s freed from his grave in the 1970s to find that his family, home and business have all gone to shit. He fights to keep everything together while comedically dealing with advances in technology, drugs, and slang. It’s a fish out of water deal, often played for laughs.
I never watched the original soap opera “Dark Shadows”, but it has some rabid fans who have to be angered by some of the goofy updates. The screenplay is written by Seth Grame-Smith, who wrote the novel “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies”, so I guess he’s the go-to guy for screwing with classic properties.
The opening is fantastic. Sets up the story and is full of great imagery and Danny Elfman’s score. The production design is fantastic, Collinwood mansion is an eyeful. Music and design are two things you come to expect from a film directed by Tim Burton. He only makes Tim Burton movies, so whatever the original source material, in the end, it’ll get turned into a Tim Burton movie. The poster for “Dark Shadows” almost suggests that he’s remade “The Addams Family”, and he has been a run of remakes – Wonka, Sweeney Todd, Alice in Wonderland, this. I long for something really original from him again, only to be told that his next film is a remake of his FIRST film, “Frankenweenie”…(sigh).
Further research into Tim Burton revealed that he’s local to where I am. I live in Burbank now and he apparently grew up here. If Burbank instilled in him all the weird characters and stories he puts on the screen, I’m beginning to fear what I will become after prolonged exposure here.
But back to Depp. What a miracle he is, as a super-handsome guy with some acting pedigree, he never takes himself seriously. All our comic actors – Jim Carrey, Eddie Murphy, etc. – are dying to go pensive and sober, Depp continues to mine more laughs than any of them. And it’s only right that Depp plays a vampire. Vampires, of course, are immortal and it doesn’t look like Johnny Depp has aged a day in thirty years.
Michelle Pfeiffer stars as the matriarch of the Collins household, who has also aged well, and has a good hold on the powerful female archetype. Chloe Grace Moretz, grows up very quickly as the Collins’ sexy daughter. Sadly, she’s miscast, seeming more to “put on” her sexiness than naturally exuding it. And it’s great to see Eva Green as an evil witch who puts the initial spell on Barnabus, turning him into a vampire for not returning her affections. She is as gorgeous as she was in “Casino Royale” and relishes the chance to play an diabolical bitch.
Burton, as popular as he is, has never made a truly GREAT movie as a director. Entertaining movies, sure, but nothing truly GREAT, and this feels uneven here and there and the ending gets a little blown out of hand with action and special effects. But if he’s not gonna make anything like “The Hurt Locker” and he’s just going to be entertaining the masses, he does that here. And again Depp proves to be a lot of fun onscreen.
Directed by: Tim Burton
Release Date: May 11, 2012
Run Time: 113 Minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures