by Tony Medley
OK for children.
One of the
all-time great performances was that of Robert Preston in The Music Man
(1957, play; 1962, movie). While Preston's acting and singing were Tony
award quality, what made it iconic was the way he used his hands. It was
so brilliant that his hands were almost a character by themselves.
So it is with
Johnny Depp as the vampire Barnabas Collins in this movie rendition of
the cult '60s daytime soaper Dark Shadows. While Depp gives one
of his typical over-the-top performances (which is not surprising since
he's being directed by his longtime compadre, Tim Burton), it's the
choreography of his hands that sets this performance a little above his
He is ably
supported by the venerable trooper Michelle Pfeiffer, who plays
Elizabeth Collins, Eva Green as Angelica Bouchard, Helena Bonham Carter
as Dr. Julia Hoffman, Jackie Earle Haley as Willie Loomis, Bella
Heathcote as the ephemeral Victoria Winters/Josette DuPres, ChloŽ Grace
Moretz as Carolyn Stoddard, and Jonny Lee Miller as Roger Collins with
an appropriate special appearance by the rocker Alice Cooper. All are up
to the task of complementing Depp.
Green has come a
long way since her softcore porn performance in The Dreamers
(2003) which featured her full frontal nudity for director Bernardo
Bertolucci. While that may have stalled her career a little, she broke
away from it with an award quality performance as Vesper Lynd, a Bond
girl in Casino Royale (2006). Her performance here as the hateful
evil witch Angelica should leave her performance in The Dreamers
as a forgotten mistake.
In 1762 Barnabas
has a fling with Angelica, but foresakes her for the ethereal Josette.
This was probably a mistake because Angelica is, after all, a witch
(something Barnabas did not know until it was too late). The result is
that Angelica curses everybody, Josette jumps off a cliff, and Barnabas
is turned into a vampire, and then promptly buried alive by Angelica.
192 years later he gets out of the tomb, rejoins the Collins family and
meets up with Angelica and Josette again, with violent and comedic
This isn't like
the soap opera, which was pretty dark. It is entirely comedic.
Unfortunately, there are not any belly laughs in this. If this is light
comedy it is far too light because except for Depp's performance, it
just isn't that funny. Unless you're a member of the Dark Shadows
cult the main reason for seeing the movie is to see Depp's appealing
Like most modern
movies this is at least 25 minutes too long, but I didn't look at my
watch as many times as I have in other movies I've seen recently.
May 9, 2012