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EDWARD SCISSORHANDS(director: Tim Burton; screenwriters: Caroline Thompson/story by Tim Burton & Caroline Thompson; cinematographer: Stefan Czapsky; editors: Colleen Halsey/Richard Halsey; music: Danny Elfman; cast: Johnny Depp (Edward Scissorhands), Winona Ryder (Kim Boggs), Dianne Wiest (Peg Boggs), Alan Arkin (Bill Boggs), Anthony Michael Hall (Jim), Kathy Baker (Joyce Monroe), Robert Oliveri (Kevin Boggs), Vincent Price (The Inventor), Dick Anthony Williams (Officer Allen), O-Lan Jones (Esmeralda); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Tim Burton/Denise Di Novi; 20th Century Fox; 1990)
“It’s visually pleasing and an easy film to like, even if it never gets out of shallow water as far as its story goes.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Tim Burton’s (“Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure”/”Beetlejuice”/”Batman”) sweet but bizarre fable is a fantasy comedy updated take on the Frankenstein story. It’s visually pleasing and an easy film to like, even if it never gets out of shallow water as far as its story goes. The main thrust of the fable is exposing the exotic gentle freak to the boring middle-class suburbs and seeing how they relate to each other, with the monster being the sympathetic innocent and society being the one to fear because of its evil nature. It’s taken from a story by Burton and Caroline Thompson. The fantasy tale is set circa 1960.

Edward (Johnny Depp) is the man-made creation of an elderly genius inventor (Vincent Price) who died before finishing his would-be companion and left him with large pruning scissors for hands. Spending many lonely years in a vast musty gothic castle that sits on a hill atop a suburban town, Edward is visited by an overly upbeat Avon lady, Peg Boggs (Dianne Wiest), desperate for business thereby taking an alternate route. She feels sorry for the well-behaved, lonely and freakish looking lad (adorned with an electric-shock hairdo and a black leather outfit, and an appearance that is a cross between Michael Jackson and a punk rocker), and takes him home to her ‘normal’ suburban family that consists of her wry humored husband Bill (Alan Arkin), pretty high school cheerleader daughter Kim (Winona Ryder) and son Kevin (Robert Oliveri). The bourgeois neighbors live in a tidy neighborhood that features assorted pastel-colored tract houses, and all act as stereotypical suburban families with gossiping housewives and dull bread-winners. There’s also a fanatical religious nut (O-Lan Jones) and an oversexed lady (Kathy Baker) doing their thing in the ‘burbs. Edward’s unique scissors allows him to become an instant neighborhood celeb when they see he’s harmless and can carve exotic lawn hedges and do neat hair designs for their pet dogs. The socially stunted teenager quietly falls for Peg’s pretty daughter Kim, but she finds him at first monstrous and prefers her insensitive bully boyfriend Jim (Anthony Michael Hall). One night Jim tricks the guileless Edward into helping him rob his parents’ house. When the cops arrive, he abandons him. Suddenly the once popular Edward is viewed as an outcast and a freak by all his former fickle friends, as they all abandon him except for the nurturing Peg and her kind husband Bill. Kim ends up having a special feeling for him, but never sees him again after taking him back to his castle for safety.

The heartfelt fable is framed around a bedtime story that Kim, now a grandma, tells her grandson. It ends up being a melancholy tale that critiques human nature and conformity; but it’s much more hopeful of society than the Frankenstein story, as this time the town might ban together to go after the alien but they are dispersed through deception by Kim before they can act like a lynch mob. Maybe the lesson here is that if one wants to be different or creative (like a Hollywood filmmaker), being cunning is a necessary ingredient for success.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”