Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
USA, 2012. Warner Bros., Village Roadshow Pictures, Infinitum Nihil, GK Films, The Zanuck Company. Story by John August, Seth Grahame-Smith, Screenplay by Seth Grahame-Smith, based on the television series by Dan Curtis. Cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel. Produced by Christi Dembrowski, Johnny Depp, David Kennedy, Graham King, Richard D. Zanuck. Music by Danny Elfman. Production Design by Rick Heinrichs. Costume Design by Colleen Atwood. Film Editing by Chris Lebenzon.
The cult classic television show of 1966 is brought to the big screen with pleasant results by Tim Burton, the master of the toothlessly delightful macabre. Johnny Depp is a scream as a centuries-old vampire who awakens to find his once-grand fishing industry family now reduced to living the Grey Gardens way in their New England mansion, the joke of it being that his human relatives are far more ghoulish than he is. Michelle Pfeiffer is astoundingly gorgeous as the mother-figure of the clan, who cannot connect with her teen rebel daughter (Chloë Grace Moretz) or troubled nephew whose father (Jonny Lee Miller) ignores him while he is under the careful watch of a frustrated American psychoanalyst (Helena Bonham Carter). Also in the mix are the brand new nanny (Bella Heathcote) with the mysterious past and an evil witch (Eva Green) who has been hounding Depp for centuries and is now stealing away the family business with her own rival canning operation. Our toothsome hero sets about to restore his clan to their former glory but is beset on all sides by the multitude of characters and their issues: too many issues, in fact, and the film suffers most for an uneven screenplay that buckles under the weight of all its tangents. By the time you reach the final third you’re dealing with a film that is without a doubt a mess: there is too much introduced at the last minute, barely held together well considering that the central relationship between Depp and Green, which involves a rare foray into ripe sexuality for the director, fizzles (Burton films Depp and Green having sex as if he’s too embarrassed to watch)…so why is it such a pleasure? It’s not difficult to sit through, even when it sags towards its conclusion, thanks mostly to terrific characterizations, a wholly appealing visual style and, most importantly, Depp’s hysterically innocent and ardent performance. Fish-out-of-water humour (no pun intended) is nothing new to Hollywood movies, and yet there is something so very funny about watching him quote Love Story or react to the sound of Karen Carpenter that gets humour from somewhere deep. It’s far from Burton’s best, but it won’t inspire any regrets either.