Edward Scissorhands (1990) — Best Halloween costume ever, so-so film

“I’m not finished.”

Drew’s rating: Edward Scissorhands and The Crow… separated at birth?

Drew’s review: Interesting story: of all the categories suggested for this year’s Annual Mutant Awards, one of the finalists was “Most distracting disfigurement/accessory.” We all made suggestions of what we considered the best examples of that in movies, and I remember thinking “Well crap, what’s more distracting than giant honkin’ scissors for hands?” So I cast my vote for Edward Scissorhands and promptly forgot all about it.

Cut to a week later: The Big Cheese emails the results for us to write up our individual sections. At the bottom of mine, a postscript reads, “Hey man, nobody’s actually reviewed Edward yet… any chance you could do one?” And I say, “Yeahbuhwha?!” How, I ask you, is that possible? Granted I’d never seen it, but it’s a Tim Burton movie, Johnny Depp’s in it, it’s got a weird premise — how could we not have reviewed it yet? But a quick check of the archives confirmed Justin isn’t a total liar, so… here we are.

Edward is not, to put it mildly, your average guy. Built by a genius but eccentric inventor (Vincent Price) who died before swapping out his scissors for actual hands, he’s spent his entire life alone in a decaying mansion at the end of a suburban neighborhood. That is until suburbanite Peg (Dianne Wiest) pays an Avon call and discovers him, then takes pity on the poor boy and brings him home. Before long Edward’s the talk of the town, and Peg and family try to help him assimilate into modern society… but as you might expect, having blades for fingers makes that slightly less than a foregone conclusion, and Edward’s growing feelings for Peg’s daughter Kim (Winona Ryder) aren’t helping matters.

When the movie was over I looked at my wife and said “Cool premise, great actors, not crazy about the execution.” But that’s actually not true, because I think the bulk of the movie is handled really well. Maybe not at quite the level of some of Burton’s later efforts, but great makeup, gaudy imagery, the stylization of the houses, the contrast of suburban drudgery with Edward’s bizarre circumstances… it all contributes to weaving that surreal tapestry Burton is aiming for. And it IS surreal, a world where you don’t even wonder why nobody inquired about the giant creepy mansion on a hill before now, or what Edward ate before Peg found him; you just accept it as part of the natural order of things.

The problem is, that delicate veneer gets blown to smithereens by the film’s climax, and once you’re out, there’s no going back. I’m not going to spoil the actual events, but they take what had been an unnecessary but interesting concept — retell the story of Frankenstein in a more whimsical, surreal fashion — and haul you kicking and screaming back into reality. It just comes across as incredibly abrupt, and as a consequence, the framing sequence that tries to recapture that whimsy seems sloppy and tacked on.

I don’t have much else to say — it’s a decent movie and I’m glad I saw it, because the bulk of it is funny and entertaining, and a lot of the actors are really good. (Although Winona Ryder does NOT work as a blonde… lose the dye, kid.) But at the same time, that ending just does not work for me, and I can’t help letting it sour me a bit on the preceding parts. My final attitude toward the film mirrors what you might say about Edward himself: fun as an oddity, worth seeing once, but not something I’m going to be rushing back to embrace anytime soon.

Didja notice?

  • Because when I see “giant scary mansion,” I think “probably needs makeup.”
  • At the risk of being obvious, um… how the frick does he go to the bathroom? Do those pants even have a zipper?
  • Would you want a guy with that many scars on his face giving you a haircut?
  • Good call, seduce the guy who could kill you with foreplay.
  • At the risk of being obvious #2- Tim Burton really has a thing for creepy stuff at Christmas, huh?
  • Yeah, I’ve decided I really only like Anthony Michael Hall when he’s playing nerds.
  • At the risk of being obvious #3 – where is he getting giant blocks of ice?
  • Aargmematey from the forums writes, “But, hilariously enough, Winona is a natural blonde, and Edward Scissorhands is one of the only movies where she is shown with her blonde hair. So I suppose that you should be telling her to keep the dye, instead of lose it (I think she figured out she didn’t work as a blonde too).”

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