A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dark Shadows is Tim Burton and Johnny Depp's big-screen adaptation of the cult '60s TV vampire soap opera, with a generous helping of silliness added. There's plenty of vampire violence and blood, though the blood is deliberately fake-looking, and the killings largely take place off screen. A flashback sequence involves a young girl's parents shipping her off to an asylum, where she's locked in a cell and receives electroshock therapy. While there's no nudity, there's lots of sexual innuendo and passionate kissing -- and a 15-year-old girl is disturbingly sexualized, often posing, dancing, or speaking in sexy ways. Language includes several uses of words like "s--t," "bitch," and "bastard"; the main character smokes pot in one scene, and supporting characters are shown drinking to excess. This isn't swoon-worthy vampire cinema a la Twilight, but Burton and Depp fans should enjoy the duo's always-quirky pairing.
What's the story?
In the 18th century, Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is a wealthy and powerful gentleman who attracts the romantic attentions of a servant girl (Eva Green) and breaks her heart. She turns out to be a witch who vengefully turns Barnabas into a vampire and buries him for 200 years. He wakes in the year 1972 and returns to his family home. Slightly befuddled by this strange new world, he moves in with the new generation of Collinses and tries to return the family to its former glory. And it turns out the family's new governess is the (possible) reincarnation of his lost love, Josette (Bella Heathcote). But the witch, now called "Angie," is still around and still looking to possess Barnabas for herself.
Is it any good?
In certain ways, this movie comes closest to celebrated director Tim Burton's best and most personal work. He brings many of his unique touches to DARK SHADOWS, including a dazzling, intricate, gothic design; heavy, crazy makeup (and blonde wigs) for his characters; and a penchant for high operatic style.
But while Burton should have been comfortable with the story's large-scale passions and soap opera emotions -- as evidenced by movies like Edward Scissorhands -- he seems unwilling to take the risk. Instead, he retreats to silly, fish-out-of-water comedy, as written by Seth Grahame-Smith (author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), that's filled with jokes about and references to the 1970s. With stronger material, Burton's films are capable of great verbal wit (Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Ed Wood), but Dark Shadows was more suited to a purely visual treatment.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Dark Shadows' vampire violence. Is it scary or funny? Which is it meant to be? What's shown, and what isn't shown? How does that affect its impact?
Are the scenes with 15-year-old Chloe Grace Moretz sexy or uncomfortable? Is she too young for this material, or does the movie's playful tone make it OK?
How is Angelique portrayed? Talk about female stereotypes in novels and films, particularly the "sexual (but evil) temptress."
Why do you think so many of the characters in this movie drink so much? Does the movie treat this seriously or jokingly?
- In theaters: May 11, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: October 2, 2012
- Cast: Eva Green, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer
- Director: Tim Burton
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Monsters, ghosts, and vampires
- Run time: 113 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: comic horror violence, sexual content, some drug use, language and smoking
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.