I had planned on seeing the Tim Burton/ Johhy Depp collaboration Dark Shadows this past weekend, but the content overview from Kids-In-Mind, along with overall lukewarm reviews, convinced me otherwise. My apologies to those who were expecting a review from me. Still, for those who want to satisfy their fix for the wildly creative Gothic entertaiment Burton provides, here’s a breakdown of my seven favorite movies by the famously eccentric filmmaker.
PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE (PG, 1985)
Before you roll your eyes, consider this: Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure is Tim Burton’s most critically-acclaimed film. Paul Reuben’s man-child character reached his full comedic potential when combined with the madcap energy of Burton’s direction and Danny Elfman’s terrific score. This was a family-favorite in my household growing up. Loaded with quotable one-liners, kid-friendly fun, and silly scares, Pee-Wee’s quest to find his stolen bicycle is grin-inducing from beginning to end, with plenty of chuckles and belly laughs. Yes, it’s all very juvenile, but wonderfully so.
BEETLEJUICE (PG, 1988)
BATMAN (PG-13, 1989)
A fine example of “style-over-substance,” Burton’s version of the Dark Knight may have nothing on Christopher Nolan’s strong characterizations and storytelling (indeed, these are weaknesses in this version), but the film is rescued by iconic performances by Jack Nicholson as The Joker and Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Danny Elfman’s score (one of my all-time favorites), amazing production design portraying Gotham as a gothic wasteland, and dazzling action sequences. What’s more, if Burton hadn’t rescued the Caped Crusader from the campy cheese of the 1960’s version, there’d have been no opportunity for Nolan to deliver his vision. Rated PG-13, Batman has some language, violence, and implications that a couple spends the night together (they kiss while clothed and wake up later in long pajamas).
EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (PG-13, 1990)
A romantic fairy tale, Burton’s first collaboration with Johhny Depp was also his best. Again, the design of the sets and Danny Elfman’s score threaten to steal the show, but Burton’s story and the performances he gets from Depp and Winona Ryder prevent that from happening, as this fantasy carries real character and heart. The theme of “not fitting in” (and the loneliness that comes from being misunderstood) is one that the director has explored many times throughout his career, but never so poignantly as here. Depp’s character, a creation of a deceased inventor, is both cursed and blessed with scissors for hands, much to the curiosity and fear of his community. Only one person (Ryder) sees past the exterior to the man inside. Rated PG-13 for a scene of a local woman attempting to seduce Depp’s character, sitting on his lap and trying to get him to cut off her top, but he resists and flees.
THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (PG, 1993)
BIG FISH (PG-13, 2003)
CORPSE BRIDE (PG, 2005)
COMING SOON FROM TIM BURTON…
This fall will see Burton remaking a live-action short film from the beginning of his career into a feature-length stop-motion animated one. Frankenweenie finds a young boy bringing his corpsified canine back to life, and looks to provide a lot of stylized fun.