Sigh, and I had such high hopes.
I love when Johnny Depp and Tim Burton collaborate, but Dark Shadows evoked more memories of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory than Edward Scissorhands, which is not a good thing. Depp is fantastic as Barnabas Collins, the recently freed vampire businessman, and Helena Bonham Carter's red hair is positively bewitching, but the rest of it is underwhelming.
You would think that with the extraordinary set design and effects, someone would have been paying an equal amount of attention to the plot, but no such luck. Nothing really happens in the film except a bunch of caterwauling about unrequited love. Sure, they start some stuff, but just like I did with tennis lessons in middle school, they quickly lose interest. Although I can't speak to how it compares to the television show it is based on, it never picks any one thing to be. It's not campy, scary, or funny enough to be worth seeing instead of The Avengers.
The Collins family built their town in Maine by being captains of industry. Unfortunately for them, some creepy stuff was afoot and they received a nasty curse that killed some and made others wish they were dead. The witch that cast it, Angelique (Eva Green), just wanted Barnabas' love. But he wasn't into her, so she killed his true love and made him a vampire. Now, 200 years later in 1972, he receives his freedom and a nasty wake up call to his family's ruin, caused by Angelique, who is still alive and kicking thanks to her witchery.
Although Barnabas makes a huge show of getting things on the right track to restore his family's fortune, it's only to serve the montage set to popular '70s music, then it's cast aside. Then we have to listen to everyone complaining about how the right person doesn't love them. Add in a strange nanny Victoria (Bella Heathcote) who looks just like Barnabas' true love, a rude and unfunny teen daughter (Chloe Grace Moretz), a kid (Gulliver McGrath) babbling on about his lost mother, and an alcoholic psychiatrist (Helena Bonham Carter), and you've got a hodgepodge of characters who might be interesting if any time was spent developing their characters. As it is, they just bounce off each other with one liners that never cohere.
There's some good stuff here, but it's solely contained in the look of the film and Johnny Depp's performance. His confused and stuffy (vampire) fish out of water is always good for a laugh when he's threatening Karen Carpenter on the television or having his hidey holes infiltrated by macrame projects. Perhaps if this was a soap opera too, it would develop into a guilty pleasure, but with the ADD storyline and failure to commit to a direction makes it a deadly painful two hours.