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Movie Review: 'Dark Shadows'

The movie remake isn't camp — and not nearly creepy enough

     (zero stars)
Director: Tim Burton
Rating PG-13. Running Time: 113 minutes
Stars: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jonny Lee Miller

Were you one of the millions of boomers who, as a teen in the 1960s, rushed home from school to catch the latest episode of the campy soap opera Dark Shadows? If so, you'll remember the whiny organ music; the dark, atmospheric settings; the scary, twisting plots — all coming together as you sprawled in front of the TV screen while Mom made dinner in the kitchen.

The nostalgia of it! I'll bet you just can't wait to watch the big-screen remake by director Tim Burton, starring Johnny Depp.

If so, don't kill the messenger. Just save your money and download one of those original episodes from Amazon.

Sign up for the AARP Leisure Newsletter.

Both Burton and Depp are purported fans of the original series, so it's hard to understand how this feature film version is so devoid of all the elements that made the television show so addictively compelling. In the remake, Depp plays Barnabas Collins, a vampire who, after having been buried alive for 200 years, is released from his tomb during a construction accident. He returns to his family mansion, Collinwood Manor, on a mountaintop in coastal Maine, to meet modern-day descendants of his ancestors.

Among them is matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, played by the usually convincing (though not so much this time) Michelle Pfeiffer; her playboy brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller of Trainspotting); his trouble-making son David (Gulliver McGrath, who was quite good in Hugo); and the psychiatrist and lush Dr. Julia Hoffman (Burton's wife, Helena Bonham Carter), on hand to assist with dysfunctional David. Barnabas' nemesis, the witchy Angelique (Eva Green of Casino Royale), who cast the spell that made him into a vampire, is running a fishing empire in town that has proved stiff competition for the rival company owned by the Collins clan. The rambling plot lines revolve mostly around Angelique's continued efforts to torment Barnabas, who refuses to get romantically involved with her.

JOHNNY DEPP as Barnabas Collins in Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures DARK SHADOWS

Johnny Depp stars as Barnabas Collins in this limp remake of 'Dark Shadows.' — Courtesy Warner Bros. Picutres

Problem is, we don't really care about Barnabas, or Angelique — or any of the Collinses, for that matter. And there's no creepy organ music playing in the background. The sets of Collinwood Manor are gothic, to be sure, but not nearly dusty or dark enough. Yes, there's a ghost, and a werewolf, and a couple of gratuitous performances by the talented Jackie Earle Haley, who plays con man Willie Loomis. But there's no camp, and virtually no laughs.

Because of all that, I'm afraid, for the cult followers that Warner Bros. is surely expecting will crowd theaters, this virtually humorless Dark Shadows will feel like a stake through the heart.

You may also like: Johnny Depp as Rango.

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Your Scoop on Cinema

Movies for Grownups is focused on films with distinct relevance to a 50-plus audience. In reviews, previews and interviews, we look for actors and themes that speak to the experiences of older moviegoers. Find more about us on:


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