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5/14/2012 8:03:00 AM
MOVIE REVIEW: Dark Shadows dull vehicle for weirdness of Depp
Peter Mountain/Warner Bros.Johnny Depp (above) spies on Jonny Lee Miller in Dark Shadows.
Peter Mountain/Warner Bros.

Johnny Depp (above) spies on Jonny Lee Miller in Dark Shadows.

David Kanowsky
Kudos Movie Critic, The Movie Man

When I finished watching Dark Shadows, I applied to the theater for a refund. I wasn't asking for a refund of my money, I wanted my two hours back!

Dark Shadows is long, dark, dull and filled with pointless mayhem with spots of humor sprinkled throughout. It is a vehicle for Johnny Depp to further demonstrate his prowess as a screen weirdo. (I thought he was wonderful in straight dramas like Finding Neverland, Public Enemies, Donnie Brasco, etc.)

Dark Shadows starts in the mid-1700s. The Collins family has come to America and created a hugely successful fishing and cannery business on the coast of Maine. The patriarch builds a castle-like home overlooking the ocean and all of life is good for the parents and their young son, Barnabas. Barnabas grows to young manhood and is a rakish playboy. He makes his way through all the young female servants in the house and in the town. One servant, a gorgeous housemaid named Angelique (Eva Green), is a favorite of his and she is mad about him. But the family mores and standards prevent him from getting into a serious relationship with a servant girl.

It turns out that Angelique is a witch and she not only ruins his chances with a suitable match, she turns Barnabas into a vampire, endowed with eternal life. Then she has him locked in a coffin and has the coffin buried, never to be found. Two hundred years later, in 1972, the coffin is unearthed in a construction project and Barnabas is free, but somewhat out of place. He imposes himself on the Collins family in the old homestead. The mansion, the family and the Collins business are in ruinous disrepair. Barnabas has the means to fix it. The problem is that Angelique, the witch, is the owner of a rival cannery. She has been using her evil powers to continue to wreak vengeance against Barnabas by destroying the Collins family and their business.

The Collins home is occupied by Elizabeth Collins (Michelle Pfeiffer), her brother, Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), two children, a drunken manservant (the only help left from the original staff of 100) and Dr. Julia (Helena Bonham Carter) who resides with them.

A lot of the humor in Dark Shadows comes from Barnabas's reactions to modern things - electric lights, automobiles, television, etc. But most of the movie has Barnabas performing stunts - comical, violent, grotesque - that his cursed form enables him to do. We see Barnabas set up a coffin to sleep in (ha ha ha) and we see him curled up for the night on the top shelf of a linen closet (ha ha). Then he might bed down in a cardboard carton (ha).

Dark Shadows could have been vastly improved if it were it shorter and without some of the extraneous and redundant scenes. The resident doctor, Julia, has no real significance to the plot. The same is true for the drunken servant whose mere appearance is enough to illustrate the decline of the household. Michelle Pfeiffer, a fine actress, seems to be sleepwalking through the film. The beautiful Eva Green, as Angelique, is more animated and interesting.

Dark Shadows is a disappointing version of the oft-told tale of a time traveler in a very strange world.

Dark Shadows is playing at Harkins Sedona 6 Theater.

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