Tim Burton

Tim Burton has a unique "pastel Gothic" production design on most of his movies which work together with a good kind of Disney quality, a sense of humor, and a harmless sensitive darkness. When he fails, he can fail pretty big, and he has in his most recent years, but in the early days he won big.

Pee Wee's Big Adventure (1985) -- Hilarious, delightful, perfect, all those words. Tim Burton's visual, Danny Elfman's music, and of course Paul Reuben's (and Phil Hartman's) humor. Good for repeated watchings. (See Randal Kleiser for the sequel, Big Top Pee Wee.) A

Beetlejuice (1988) -- This movie is funny and imaginative (especially Michael Keaton playing Beetlejuice), but it seems to be missing some kind of logic. I know that sounds silly to say about a fantasy ghost story, but I think a movie like this needs its own invented rules and it seems to have few or none. Why sand worms? Why does the model of the town correspond to reality? What is Beetlejuice exactly and what's the deal with saying his name three times? It just seems like I'm watching an eight year old make up stuff... but that eight year old is illustrating his story with such bright colors and with such comedy that I almost don't mind. B

Batman (1989) -- The only Batman movie really (until Batman Begins was made). Tim Burton did a pretty good job with this one, with Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson working well in their roles. Danny Elfman pulled off his most complex score yet, also. (See below for the sequel, Batman Returns.) B

Edward Scissorhands (1990) -- This isn't my favorite Tim Burton movie, but it's what I consider the quintessential Tim Burton movie: his not-quite-Goth version of Goth, the sensitive and misunderstood outcast, the poking fun at the suburbs, the hatred of jocks and other popular kids that Goth kids and other high school outcasts are supposed to hate, the quirky and often lovely Danny Elfman music, all with that safe Disneyesque finish... everything that makes misunderstood high school and college kids everywhere love it to this day. I like it for the reasons I've mentioned above, and I'm somehow not annoyed by it for the very same reasons. B

Batman Returns (1992) -- I watched this two times (the second was to give it another chance), and both times I was just pretty much bored. They should have stopped at one or made sure the rest were as good (true of all sequels, of course). Whose idea was it to have Batman play a bit part in his own movie? (See above for the predecessor, Batman. See Joel Schumacher for the sequel, Batman Forever.) D

Ed Wood (1994) -- My favorite Tim Burton movie, this one is always on the balancing beam between becoming a parody of Ed Wood the director and of becoming an all-out admiration biography, and watching the film itself work by staying right in the perfect middle is part of the joy. Johnny Depp has one of his best roles and Martin Landau deserved the Oscar he received. Watch my favorite Ed Wood movie, Glen or Glenda?, then Bride of the Monster and Plan 9 from Outer Space, and then watch this excellent movie. A

Mars Attacks! (1996) -- That Tim Burton went from making Ed Wood to making this flat-out disappoints me, even makes me kind of ashamed of him. Many fans argue that you have to "get" this movie, that you have to enjoy it for its badness, just as you would an Ed Wood movie, but that can't possibly work. If you enjoy an Ed Wood movie for its "badness," it's really for the magical charm of that, the naivety of thinking you're making a decent movie and failing (not that I think Ed Wood even did that in the first place). For Tim Burton to use big bucks to make a B movie shows that he thinks he's holier than the B movies, a kind of snotty thing to do, especially for someone who treated the king of B movies with such care. Killing off the most likeable characters and actors (Jack Nicholson, Michael J. Fox, etc.) and leaving the less likeable ones (Jim Brown, Tom Jones, etc.) was pretty stupid, too. F

Sleepy Hollow (1999) -- Not very Tim Burton-looking, but instead just looks like a semi-decent period piece with a do-able but not too interesting detective story about a ghost. The mediocre script's first mistake is changing the character of Ichabod (he's logical instead of superstitious, for starters) as well as rewriting most of the bits of the story that made "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" interesting to begin with (like Brom Bones). C

Planet of the Apes (2001) -- They should have called it Planet of the Shitty Movie. Forty-five minutes into the film, and I realize nothing's happened. Over two hours and still nothing, just a bunch of snarling monkeys. I was actually longing for Charlton Heston's overacting and innocent social commentary. When I saw Marky Mark crash-land at the Lincoln Memorial, I said, "I bet Lincoln will be an ape," and I said that not because it makes any sort of logical sense, but because it seemed like the appropriate ending for a movie that didn't seem to care how horrible and pointless it was. F

Big Fish (2003) -- So for an encore of crap, Tim Burton decides to direct what amounts to Forrest Gump if it were 100 times more stupid and lacking anything original. I'm not sure how anyone makes it much past the opening credits. F

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) -- It's usually unfair to compare a movie to a book, or a remake the original, or (in this case) both, but that's what you almost have to do with this movie.  There are appropriate times for making remakes, usually when the original has become "dated" in some way, when a remake would have more of an appeal to newer audiences.  But that's not the case with this movie, since people are still watching and discovering Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory from 1971.  In fact, that movie was so ahead of its time that it's much more successful now than it was when it came out.  So, unless Tim Burton made something that really floored everyone, there wasn't much a point in making a new one.  In 1990, he might have been up to the challenge, but he's been coasting on his past fame now for the past ten years or more, and he's become one of the crappiest big-name moviemakers.  What we end up with in the remake (and, yes, I know it's unfair to even call it a remake, since it's not even that so much as a movie version of the book: this one even has the book's title) is a pretty decent telling of the story with sets and characters and things that would be otherwise great if, again, we weren't constantly comparing it as an audience to the still-superior original.  The kids are just as good in this movie (sometimes better--the truly good and lovable Charlie is much better than the wimpy goody-goody Charlie of the first movie), as are the parents.  Charlie's parents and grandparents are better-developed, and Grandpa Joe is one of the best people in the movie.  In fact, the only person who's not that great is Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka himself.  There's no beating Gene Wilder, of course, but even if you didn't have him for comparison, Depp still did a boring job.  His character is basically his teeth, and having a false "childhood" way of talking.  You can't believe that he's smart enough to invent this stuff, or creative enough, or anything but what the movie would have him be: a stupid adult trapped in childhood because of some dumb trauma.  More Michael Jackson than Walt Disney.  The Oompa Loompas were dumb in the first movie and they're okay here as characters, but the songs are even worse.  Danny Elfman has written lousy songs for them that sound like horrible plastic children's records.  In the end, this is a fine enough movie, often quite good, but it's not the one that children and adults will continue to watch for another fifty years. C

Corpse Bride (2005) -- Directed with Mike Johnson.  Not as interesting in story and song as the similar-looking stop-animated The Nightmare Before Christmas, but it does the trick.  The characters are all designed well, the acting is good, and it's nice to see this antiquated form of animation alive and looking so good. B

Copyright (c) Dec 2000 - Apr 2006 by Rusty Likes Movies