“Dark Shadows” Casts Jokes from Years Ago
Reviewed by Jason Gregg
The Depp/Burton/Bonham Carter money train keeps a rollin’ on. These three should start their own production company and just remake old movies and TV shows once a year. After working on such projects such as Alice in Wonderland, Corpse Bride, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, one would have to wonder if they will ever run out of ideas. The train just came to a stop.
Dark Shadows (directed by Tim Burton) is the latest money grab by the trio. Based on the 1966 TV series (no worries, you don’t have to watch the original on Netflix to ramp up to speed) but set in 1972 Collinsport, Maine. Our star, Barnabas Collins (played by Johnny Depp) narrates to us events from 200 years in the past. His family starts a fishery in Maine and as he grows into a young man, we see him break the heart of the family’s maid, Angelique (played by Eva Green), who happens to be a witch. He then falls in love with a fair maiden, Josette (played by Bella Heathcote). After seeing this affair, Angelique casts a curse on Barnabas turning him into a vampire and has him buried alive.
Skipping ahead to 1972 (actually the audience skips back to 1972 while Barnabas skips ahead) we meet the new Collins family, a wealthy yet fully dysfunctional family complete with a teen full of angst, Carolyn (played by Chloe Grace Moretz), a coward of a father figure, Roger, and an alcoholic live-in psychiatrist, Dr. Julia Hoffman (played by Helena Bonham Carter). All headed by a strong independent mother figure, Elizabeth (played by Michelle Pfeiffer).
A nanny from New York, Victoria (again played by Bella Heathcote) answers an ad to become a governess for the Collin’s young son who has lost his mother in an accident. Soon after, Barnabas is dug up by a construction crew, dines on their blood and makes his way to town. After a forced sight gag montage set to the song Superfly, he adjusts to his new surroundings and makes his way to his old mansion where the new Collins family members are living.
Barnabas is introduced to Elizabeth and family where there are yet more sight gags of toys and trinkets from 1972. The prop guy must have found a stash on eBay and ordered everything from a troll doll to the game “Operation” and even “Rock Em Sock Em” robots. A nostalgic chuckle is expected once we see that Barnabas seems confused by these toys from the future (or past depending how you look at it).
Barnabas and Elizabeth soon become business partners and discover they have a common enemy, Angelique. The same witch from 200 years ago has been making a name for herself in the fishing industry. Yet once again we see another montage of 1970s imagery building the story up, this time set to the song Top of the World by the Carpenters.
All along Barnabas is falling in love with new governess. Angelique still has a strong love for Barnabas and refuses to release him from the curse of being a vampire. The have a back and forth reluctant love affair until a brutal all-out fight ends the film.
Should you see this movie? Wait for the DVD release and watch it around Halloween. The release is up against too many factors – Mother’s Day weekend, riding on the heels of The Avengers, Depp’s talent being wasted on gags with the tired “fish out of water” scenario and Burton’s lack of his whimsical magic that we saw in Edward Scissorhands and Big Fish.
I am still confused on why they chose 1972 Maine for the setting. Why not 2012 where the target market can relate to more of the jokes, there were many references to 1972, they set up a joke about macramé and wait for the audience to think to itself “Oh yes, that’s right, macramé was a huge hit in the 1970s.”