Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest, Anthony Michael Hall, Kathy Baker, Vincent Price, Alan Arkin
Directed by: Tim Burton
Unbelievable as this might sound, until a couple weeks ago, I’d never seen Edward Scissorhands. Just one of those movies that slipped past me when I was young that I wasn’t all that interested in catching up on since, figuring that most of its appeal lie in the nostalgia value it brings to those watching it now, remembering how much they liked it then.
More than that, I just don’t care for Tim Burton movies. The guy gets lost in his ideas and stuffs the proceedings with kooky artifice that completely disengages me as a viewer. Sure it may have seen fresh and exciting when he first started putting his vision on screen 20 years ago, but he’s been doing the same thing ever since, so the freshness has pushed far past its expiry date.
But I figured that this was early Burton, so it might be worth a shot. Plus, it’s an original Burton concept, not some established property that he feels the need to Burtonize, so it might be more acceptable and less annoying. And for the most part, it is. In Edward, he’s created an interesting and engaging character that’s genuinely appealing, powered by Johnny Depp‘s performance, full of innocence and wonder. I liked Edward, and found his circumstances interesting and the things Burton has him do with his scissor hands fun.
For about half an hour. After that, the kooky characters, off kilter set design, and neighbourly hijinx cease to become interesting in of themselves. And sadly, the story doesn’t pick up the slack. In fact, the story is pretty stupid. Since Tim Burton has never been interested in portraying human beings, it’s hard to get invested in the freaked out reactions of the set pieces that pass as characters in this one. Worse, the final act attempts to draw its emotional impact from the romance between Depp and Winona Ryder, but the whole thing is contrived and unconvincing. For most of the movie, Ryder is creeped out by and disinterested in Edward. But when Burton needs an ending to a movie that’s more ideas than story, she suddenly falls in love with him, seemingly because of some shaved ice and Danny Elfman‘s score.
The movie tries to get away with its flaws and emptiness with its fairytale trappings, which does give it some allowance with its unreality and artifice. But it doesn’t mean that its contrivance and cliché get a pass, especially when your eyes aren’t clouded by fond childhood memory.