Starring: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Jonny Lee Miller
Forget Brad and George – serious moviegoers know that Hollywood’s biggest bromance is between uber-director Tim Burton and, arguably the greatest actor of his generation, Johnny Depp. These two have proved a winning team on several previous collaborations including Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, The Corpse Bride and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to name just a fraction of the movies they have teamed up on. As a rule Burton’s style tends to be dark and intense (remember his amazing take on the Batman movies starring Michael Keaton) and Depp’s natural versatility and preference for playing quirky outsider type characters compliments his style perfectly, so it’s no surprise these two have become something of a dream team. In fact at this stage they’re kind of like the old married couple of moviemaking. However, just like in a marriage things can start to get stale and with this offering you get the feeling that sometimes familiarity does indeed breed contempt.
Based on the American soap opera of the same name that ran from 1966 – 1971, the plot follows Barnabas Collins, whose parents emigrate from Liverpool to the New World in 1760. He grows up to be a wealthy playboy but when he breaks the heart of a witch called Angelique (Green) he finds himself cursed to be a vampire for all eternity and just for good measure she has him buried alive. However, in 1972 his coffin is accidentally unearthed and Barnabas finds himself back on his old stomping ground. Seeking out his ancestors, he learns that their fortunes have drastically changed from his 18th century heyday and he resolves to help them out. However, it seems that Angelique, who is also immortal and now a high-powered businesswoman in the town, still hasn’t gotten over his rejection. He also has to deal with the family’s governess, who bears more than a passing resemblance to his one true love, and a dotty psychiatrist (Bonham Carter) who claims she can make him human again but who has ulterior motives of her own.
All in all this is entertaining enough. Depp completely camps it up as Barnabas, Eva Green is surprisingly amazing as the seductive Angelique and Michelle Pfeiffer is fantastic as Elizabeth the family matriarch. However, Burton appears to struggle to get the five years worth of source material in to a feature length movie. At times it feels very disjointed and certain plot points seem to come out of nowhere. There’s not really anything here that we haven’t seen him deliver before – it’s almost like Tim Burton by numbers and there is also a sense that it is not sure what it wants to be. With some seriously camp humour which then switches to darkly sinister scenes, it doesn’t seem to gel together fluidly. Ironically the highlights are the incredibly campy cheesy scenes, which make the most of the 70s backdrop and Depp’s over-the-top portrayal of a man out of his time.
Despite all that I would still recommend it. At this stage we know what to expect from a Depp and Burton collaboration and it does what it says on the tin. If I’m nitpicking it is simply because at this stage of their careers I expect a bit more from both of them. This is silly and surreal but definitely engaging and will give you more than a few giggles. What more can you expect from a movie!