Saturday, March 25, 2023


May 11, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

The critics appear equally divided over Dark Shadows, and we’re referring not just to how they line up for or against the movie but also, in many cases, to how they render their individual reviews. Take Roger Ebert’s in the Chicago Sun-Times, for example. He hails Johnny Depp’s performance as “pitch perfect,” playing the character Barnabas “with a lasered intensity.” Director Tim Burton’s sets and art direction are “spectacular” and offer “wonderful things,” he writes, before concluding, “Dark Shadows begins with great promise, but then the energy drains out.” Likewise Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times praises the film’s “wonderful production design” and adds that “Depp’s performance is so unwavering in its commitment to eccentricity that it is hard not to be fitfully entertained.” But the plot, he remarks, “is all over the place, getting more grotesque and less involving the longer it goes on, and that, as even the undead would admit, is a damned shame.” Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal allows that the movie “is amusing, in fits and spurts, and sure to make tons of money, but terribly familiar and fatigued.” Claudia Puig in USA Today observes that Dark Shadows “is at its best in comic mode … but it bookends the funny stuff with run-of-the-mill special effects and action.” Those are some of the glass-half-empty reviews. On the other hand, consider Mick LaSalle’s review in the San Francisco Chronicle. “There are times, not too many, when the movie drags,” he writes. “But when you consider all the pitfalls avoided, and all the laughs and pleasures it provides along the way, Dark Shadows is a satisfying and skillful effort.” Manohla Dargis in the New York Times acknowledges that Burton “isn’t big on narrative logic, coherence and thrust” and adds that “Dark Shadows isn’t among Mr. Burton’s most richly realized works.” However, she concludes, “it’s very enjoyable, visually sumptuous and, despite its lugubrious source material and a sporadic tremor of violence, surprisingly effervescent.” Ty Burr in the Boston Globe also concedes that Burton’s “own curse is that his knack for visual invention has always been shadowed by hapless storytelling.” But he points out that his source material, the afternoon TV show, “was incoherent to start with,” adding that in the case of Dark Shadows, the movie, there’s just enough structure to tide us over … but it’s the atmosphere and the riffs that matter.” Like other critics, Joe Neumaier in the New York Daily News faults Burton for trying to “serve too many masters” with “a soap opera season’s worth of plot” but the characters are “all creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky, and keep Dark Shadows from dying a slow death.” And Lou Lumenick in the New York Post, while calling the plot of the movie “undernourished,” concludes that “for all its shortcomings, I’d sooner watch a sequel to Dark Shadows than another installment of the bloated Pirates of the Caribbean saga any day.”