Scott Marks 12:30 p.m., July 26
- Rated PG-13 | 1 hour, 45 minutes
A synthetic man (Johnny Depp) has been left unfinished by his creator: twelve-inch blades in place of fingers, and hence a bit of a punk-rocker's look, with an untended tangle of black hair and some fashionable self-mutilation over the face. This — the imperfection of creation and the danger thereof to oneself and to others — comes across as potentially a rich metaphor for the human condition. But it remains a potential unfulfilled, or even unpursued. The director, Tim Burton, wants to insist on the creature's status as an ingenuous outsider, a Prince Myshkin in Prince's sharkskin, an E.T., a Wild Child, an Elephant Man, possibly a Pee-wee Herman (hero of Burton's first feature film). Scarcely a whiff of freshness comes out of all this. The satire of tract-home suburbia, seemingly stuck in an eternal Eisenhower Era despite the stray reference to aerobics, has become almost a genre unto itself, open to all comers and robbed of everything eccentric and esoteric. And the inventor's castle that sits above this suburb — an oasis of 1930s black-and-white in a desert of 1950s Technicolor — doesn't sit well. And the fairy-tale framing device, with gray-wigged Granny relating a bedtime story about where the snow comes from, doesn't bind the two elements together but adds yet a third element, unrelated to the others except as a fellow hand-me-down. The disparateness itself is the farthest thing from fresh; is nose-scrunchingly rancid. But as lax and as lazy as all of this is in conception, it is equally and compensatingly exuberant in execution. The physical setting has all the diorama-like artificiality we have come to expect from a Burton film: the solid-color houses of the tidy suburb looking like pieces on a game board (and yielding greater geometrical interest than the conscious Caligari salute in his Beetlejuice), the hilltop castle looking like a snow-scene paperweight from afar, looking like backlot Transylvania up close. And the casting of Vincent Price as the inventor, while it will of course make good sense to any accredited horror fan, makes even better sense as a bridge to Burton's past. Just as Edward Scissorhands has to do with (or so we are told) the director's boyhood in Burbank, it is also a sort of synthesis of his two early short films, Vincent and Frankenweenie. 1990.