Film: Dark Shadows (2012)
Cast includes: Johnny Depp (The Rum Diary), Michelle Pfeiffer (Hairspray), Helena Bonham Carter (The King's Speech), Eva Green (Casino Royale), Bella Heathcote (In Time), Chloë Grace Moretz (Hugo)
Director: Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands)
Genre: Comedy | Fantasy (113 minutes)
Barnabas Collins tells us, "Blood is thicker than water." When the Collins family left Liverpool, England in 1760, they came to the new world and established a seafood empire in Collinsport, on the coast of Maine. The family put down roots, building Collinwood, the grand family mansion. But tragedy befell the family when Barnabas Collins refused to be lead down a "path of dark magic" by the beautiful servant girl, Angelique. His true love, Josette, under Angelique's evil spell, leapt to her death with only two words on her lips: "Help me." When Barnabas leapt after her, it was Angelique's dark magic that kept him from dying... and "cursed him into becoming a vampire so his suffering would never end."
We skip to 1972. Victoria Winters, who looks amazingly similar to Josette, has answered an ad in the paper, "Governess Wanted. Prominent Maine Family." The hippies who drop her off in front of Collinwood ask, "What brings a New York girl up to the sticks?" She answers, "An old friend." Collinwood is in ruins. The Collins family consists of Mom (Elizabeth), Roger, Carolyn, and young David -- who needs a governess. David also needs a live-in shrink because he sees ghosts. On Victoria's first night at Collinwood, she sees the ghost of Josette, who foreshadows Barnabas' return. That's when a building crew digs up the coffin and opens it. Barnabas is 200 years overdue for a taste of blood... the crew of 11 will quench his thirst quite nicely. It's a strange world that Barnabas finds as he heads home. And things at Collinwood are even stranger. "How soon can the horses be ready?" "We have a Chevy," says Elizabeth, who tolerates him because she knows his outrageous tale is true. It takes a while for the others to catch on. And it takes a while for Barnabas to figure out how to woo the lovely Victoria (Josette).
In the meantime, Barnabas' old nemesis, Angelique, is still around... driving a hot red Thunderbird and still carrying a grudge. Based on the 1960s-era cult-classic TV soap opera, the movie has a whole basket of nutty plot details, punctuated at every turn by 200 years of wacky time-warp humor. Johnny Depp has a special talent for irony and his character gives us quite a few chuckles. The Tim Burton weirdness is a lot of fun at times. But on balance, there aren't really enough fun, clever bits to offset the parts that aren't. Since they made little effort to get us to care about the characters, some may find Dark Shadows tiresome while waiting for the good bits -- even though the good bits are really quite amusing. Among other things, Barnabas struggles to find the way to Victoria's heart. "I fear I'm a relic in her eyes. In my day, I could offer money... or sheep."
2 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
Vampire Barnabas Collins returns to his family home after 200 years to find things not quite the way they used to be.
Audience: Teens and Young adults
Distribution: Mainstream wide release
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: Computer effects
Character Development: Not that kind of film
Social Significance: Pure entertainment
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