Monday, May 28, 2012

Pass the Popcorn: Dark Shadows

As my tween daughter grows older, it gets harder and harder to find things we enjoy together. She's often willing to go to the mall, but I get the distinct feeling that I am more of a checkbook than a cherished companion. Similarly, while she welcomes rides to and from stables and equestrian events, it is in my capacity as chauffeur that I am most appreciated. It isn't as though we spend the driving time in meaningful conversation. After all, that would mean looking up from her iPhone. 

So, a new movie with a good friend and her mom sounded promising — in concept anyway. Between end-of-year dances and talent shows, sleepovers and final exams, it was more difficult to coordinate than we expected. Finally, we agreed to an early evening showing at a local independent cinema. 

The girls were there to see Dark Shadows. I was there to see ... Johnny Depp.

My husband is amused if somewhat perplexed by my adulation of the aforementioned movie star. Despite a series of rather disappointing recent movies (both Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland, as well as all the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels come to mind), I can always carve out some time to spend with my man Johnny. I relished his portrayal of the demon barber in Sweeney Todd. In fact, I enjoy his theatricality in general. But, I think my favorite roles were his kinder, gentler ones. The gypsy lover in Chocolat (ooh la la!) and the soft-spoken Sir James Barrie in Finding Neverland.

We all have our weaknesses, and Johnny Depp may as well be mine. He's less expensive than Jimmy Choo's and less fattening than Ben & Jerry's.

The girls, being fourteen and acutely aware of looking and feeling independent, took their popcorn, M&Ms and sodas, and found seats apart from ours. Of course, since the movie has already been out a few weeks (and, unfortunately for the divine Mr. Depp, is something less than a blockbuster at this point), we were pretty much the only people in the theatre. Nevertheless, the two moms settled ourselves a discreet distance from our daughters.

If you haven't seen the trailer for Dark Shadows yet, I highly recommend it. If you haven't seen the movie itself yet, I suggest watching the trailer twice.

Just kidding.

Truly though, the trailer includes the movie's best and funniest jokes, snippets of its hilariously groovy soundtrack, and a nice, fast-paced summary of the action. "Well done, movie trailer people!"

Don't get me wrong, I'm not panning the movie completely. Over-the-top actors in over-the-top costumes on an over-the-top set with over-the-top special effects. If you buy into the weird and wacky world of Tim Burton, you could do much worse than sit back and enjoy the ride. And, in honesty, that's pretty much what Dark Shadows feels like. An amusement park ride. (Actually, I'm surprised no one has built a Burtonland yet. How cool would that be!) 

Aspects of the new movie are a lot of fun. In particular, my companion and I got a chuckle out of the music, which includes several deliciously dated hits from the early 70s. Cartoonish or not, Johnny Depp's vampiric dandy Barnabas Collins is a hoot. Eva Green as his nemesis/lover, the witch turned fishing mogul Angelique, is fairly flawless. Helena Bonham Carter in a rather obtuse role is funnier than I expected. There's an excellent supporting cast. And, Michelle Pfeiffer must have sold her soul to Beetlejuice himself because the woman simply isn't aging as a mere mortal should.

Nevertheless, between Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein, Love at First Bite and the original Addams Family movie (with another of my cinematic heartthrobs, the late great Raul Julia), I felt like I'd "been there, done that." It was a clever spoof and an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours. Not much else.

Although, there may be more here for mothers than meets the eye. I have to say that Dark Shadows offers an interesting (and particularly fanged and furry) explanation for the general moodiness of the Collins family's teen daughter. And, it was very gratifying to watch the scenes between her and Barnabas.

She sneers, "Are you stoned or something?" 

"They tried stoning me, my dear," he answers. "It did not work."

If only I could be so blissfully oblivious to sarcasm.

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