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Review: Burton's 'Dark Shadows' lacks comedic bite

Dark Shadows sucks almost all of the fun out of what should be a humorous, funky adaptation of a campy, classic television series.

Johnny Depp may have the fangs in Dark Shadows, but the film lacks comedic bite.
Johnny Depp may have the fangs in Dark Shadows, but the film lacks comedic bite.
Warner Bros.

Those who remember the ABC series about a 200-year-old vampire, who returns to his ancestral home in order to save his descendants, will understand undoubtedly what director Tim Burton attempts to do with this remake.

His love and appreciation for all things Dark Shadows is evident. He gets the tone, the look and the casting right. However, somebody should have told him to bring laughs for the script.

A big fear that anyone might have while watching the hilarious trailer is that it contains all of the movie’s best laughs. Unfortunately, outside of those two minutes of comedic joy, Shadows only has a couple of other laughs.

Burton’s version proves more homage than culture-clash comedy and it’s a rather dry exercise. It also represents a series of missed opportunities. Understanding that he doesn’t want to over do the-man-out-of-time aspect of the film, he plays it too conservatively, not dealing with it enough.

He also didn’t have to remain bound to the idea of having vampire Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) be found in the year 1972. Considering there’s much more comedic material to mine in the present day, tons of opportunities get missed. Picture Collins dealing with 21st century technology such as a cell phone or computer instead of a television. Of course, the movie could have had a chuckle or two at the fact that with respect to pop culture, Americans are vampire obsessed from the Twilight books and movies to The Vampire Diaries.

Instead Seth Grahame-Smith’s script relies on what’s familiar to fans of the series - including Burton - whose focus remains squarely on family loyalty. That facet of the film isn’t a hindrance. But that aspect of the film overwhelms what should be a comedic tour de force for Depp.

Although, the quintessential acting chameleon buries himself in the part, delivering his lines with more than a tinge of irony and cocking a brow that would make Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock jealous. Yes, he drolly delivers a few funny lines.

Much of the comedic heavy lifting, however, is allegedly given to the rest of the Collins clan – Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), Roger (Jonny Lee Miller) and their children Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz) and David (Gulliver McGrath). However, to deliver a laugh, you kind of have to have the material and it’s mostly missing here.

Yes, there are a couple of gems that reveal themselves in that regard, but considering they are so few, discussing them wouldn’t be fair.

Suffice it to say for fans of Burton’s prior comedic efforts, Dark Shadows lets them down. If anything it’s reminiscent of his earlier movies in that he sort of roams the cinematic landscape looking for something which to focus, but misses the mark.

In a very young summer movie season, Dark Shadows represents the first disappointment.

Movie: Dark Shadows

Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Grace Moretz

Studio: Warner Bros.

Rated: PG-13 (comic horror violence, sexual content, some drug use, language and smoking)

Running time: 113 minutes

George’s rating: 2.5-of-5 stars

Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com

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