When I first heard about this movie I thought "hey...looks original, Tim Burton's at his best when he's being original!" Then I found that this movie was based on a 1960's supernatural soap opera and thought "ok, not so original...but odd...could be in a good way too! Burton does odd well." That was hoping...but having seen the actual movie is something else and, unfortunately, it's doesn't meet what you'd be hoping for as a Burton/Depp fan, let alone as a typical movie goer.
You've probably seen the trailers, so you most likely know the story, but here it is for good measure: It's the mid 1700's and Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), a wealthy man born to an industrious family, is in love with a nice pretty lady, while being party to a jealous witch (Eva Green). The witch kills the nice lady, curses Collins to be a vampire (your traditional type with the actual fangs and sun problems and what not, sorry...no stripper body glitter) and then buries him. He finally gets free in 1972 and fish-out-of-water hilarity ensues. Barnabas ends up back at his old mansion where his future, and now unsuccessful, relatives live. That lack of success is due to the witch, who now owns the industry in the port town the Collins used to run with their business back in the day. Learning of this, Barnabas decides to help his family get back to their former glory while attempting to ridding his life of the witch and the vampire curse.
The first half of the movie is actually pretty enjoyable. Tim Burton brings the gothic and morbid style he's known for to play. The story is interesting enough to get things going. The characters that comprise the modern Collins family are introduced showing some good quirkiness with enough edge to get your attention. And Johnny Depp brings his dependable 'A' game, stealing the scenes when he's dug up, apologetically killing people, and lacking understanding of cars and electronically powered things. Depp's reactions, dialog, and the humor they generate almost single-handedly keep the movie on it's feet...but only for so long.
At about the half way mark, Dark Shadows starts losing steam. The movie is content with not going into great detail on simple things that would get you more engaged and it doesn't care much for developing characters. Instead it just steamrolls the plot forward from one scene to the next, missing explanations for why seemingly key characters are they way they are in favor of something "funny," or something with more Deppth (see what I did there? Well, I though it was funny...moving along). A premium example, without spoiling anything major, is the introduction of a woman (set up as a main character), who looks very similar to Barnabas's original lover asides from having a different hair color, as she travels to become a caretaker at the Collin's estate. She's a liar, for no apparent reason, and sees the ghost of Barnabas's dead love from time to time. Not enough explanation is given as to what her deal is until the very end and it isn't handled with enough clarity to make great sense.
Some will be able to ignore these flaws, turn off their brains, and just take in the eye candy and occasional goofy humor, but I found these problems to be too glaring. Due to these issues, by the 3rd act, I found the story to become so flimsy that I stop caring. The climatic showdown shoehorns in a bunch of supernatural creatures out of next to nowhere until the movie finally ends abruptly and poorly.
Other points worth noting are that there's a decently violent scene here or there and a surprising amount of sexual humor. Also, the trailers make it seem like a comedy, but there's enough of intended (not distastefully done) melodrama and campy horror mixed in that I wouldn't consider it a straight up comedy film.
Dark Shadows definitely has the Tim Burton vibe going for it, but it lacks in many areas that make for a thoroughly enjoyable time. While the first half is fun enough, the movie ultimately relies too heavily on Depp without giving him enough to work with and the sloppy story telling only ends up making matters worse. If you're a Burton/Depp fan, I'd give this a rent. If watching the trailers have wet your appetite for something Burton so much that you need a fix, just watch Edward Scissorhands or Beetlejuice instead. There's another movie out right now that's MUCH more deserving of your time and money, even for a second viewing. You know...the one that rhymes with "The Pretenders."
Score = 5/10
...and this belongs riiiiiiight here: