Saturday 12 May 2012

Blasts from the past: "Dark Shadows" and "All in Good Time" (ST 13/05/12)

Dark Shadows (12A) 113 mins ***
All in Good Time (12A) 105 mins ***
Dark Shadows, Tim Burton’s take on a Gothy US TV serial all but unknown beyond the Burton front room, takes a while to find its mojo. There’s a lot of backstory involving lost loves and jumping off cliffs, and a lot of Rick Heinrichs’ production design: not since Batman has the filmmaker had this overwhelmingly cavernous a set to play on. Matters are enlivened – inevitably, this being Burton – with the arrival of the living dead: Johnny Depp’s cold-fish vampire Barnabas Collins, reawakened in 1972 to be bamboozled by Karen Carpenter and lava lamps alike. Cue a silly, garbled, blast-from-the-past plot, fitfully funny within its limited parameters.
That twisted storytelling seems almost the point. As the frenzied couplings of Depp’s nosferatu and his white-witch lover/nemesis Eva Green insinuate, close to the film’s surface pulses an appealing vein of counter-commercial perversity: Barnabas’s return is also that of the director who once amused himself making Mars Attacks! from bubblegum trading cards. Here again, ephemerality vanquishes immortality, yet Dark Shadows offers the week’s best Scooby-Doo joke, its choicest rock star cameo, and its brightest salmon-pink explosion – and I’ll take these sparks, however fleeting, over the pallid disappointments of Burton’s 3D Alice any day.
All in Good Time reworks the premise of 1966’s John/Juliet Mills comedy The Family Way – young newlyweds struggle to escape overbearing parents’ terraced home – with a handful of British-Asian spice. The newlyweds are Reece Ritchie, a too-meek underling at a Manchester Bollywood cinema, and Amara Karan, an ingénue with eyes as big and bright as the moon; their keepers, the talismanic Meera Syal and Harish Patel. It’s mild mainstream fare – more tikka masala than sag aloo – but the performers keep it bubbling, and crowdpleaser specialist Nigel Cole (Calendar Girls) stirs in warmth enough to dispel any cynicism.

Dark Shadows and All in Good Time are in cinemas nationwide; a longer version of the Dark Shadows review can be read here.

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