Written by Caroline Thompson
To say Edward Scissorhands the first collaboration between director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp, and that Burton and composer Danny Elfman consider it their favourite production, says a lot about its pretense. Because it – and “it” in this case is the protagonist and his single quirk – is only really a novelty for five minutes. And that’s a problem when trying to carry something for about two hours.
Edward Scissorhands, as a character, is Johnny Depp’s breakthrough role, and his entire performance is in the eyes. His hands might be scissors, but the character is all in the face. At times, it reminded me of Kate Bush. But the backstory is introduced in such a haphazard style that you can’t tell what kind of story Edward Scissorhands wants to be, and it doesn’t seem to be able to tell either. It begins with a bedtime story telling the legend of the character, before cutting to a gothic castle, and then a colour neighbourhood ala The Stepford Wives. One of Burton’s signature styles is to combine fantasy with normality, and to make normality more of a fantasy than the actual fantasy elements. And that’s because Burton is an art director. He’s the most arty director there is, and yet Edward Scissorhands is an attempt at mainstream cinema. But this just doesn’t work because mainstream cinema requires certain narrative pillars, whereas Edward Scissorhands would have been much better suited to a release in an art house rather than global cinemas.
Really, the problem in it is that the protagonist isn’t developed. The story sways between one sight gag to another, with him reacting to a variety of domestic things in the style that one would if one had scissors for hands and no understanding of the world. There isn’t a story here, it’s really just a novelty. And it wears off very quickly.
Edward Scissorhands: inconsistent sight gags prove disappointing. 4/10
Still, at least it isn’t Edward Penishands.