I am convinced that Tim Burton is on a mission to destroy all the movies I enjoyed growing up. First, there was his abominable remake of Planet of the Apes, which was an unpardonable dumbing down of Pierre Boulle and Rod Serling, even with the Charlton Heston cameo. Then there was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, in which Roald Dahl’s acid-barbed warmth was glossed over with ostentatious production design and thespic detritus (from Depp, no less!). I haven’t yet seen Sweeney Todd, but, despite Mr. Teachout’s thumbs up, I fear the worst. Now comes word, courtesy of Bookshelves of Doom, that Burton plans to direct another adaptation of Alice in Wonderland.
Let us be clear on this. Burton’s decline began when he began remaking old films, presumably because his ideas or his stock of fresh screenwriters dried up. Aside from the ho-hum offerings Big Fish and The Corpse Bride, Burton’s been a lousy director. His films have been crammed with showy commercial impulses in which the stylized early Burton — with its enjoyable Aubrey Beardsley hand-me-downs — has all but disappeared. (Years ago, I sensed that something was amiss when Burton opted for an over-the-top black palette with Sleepy Hollow.) He hasn’t taken a chance or made an unapologetically fun film since Mars Attacks! There’s simply no trace of the guy who gave us Beetlejuice or Ed Wood left.
And if the good Terry Teachout says that Sweeney Todd is “the best film ever to have been made from a Broadway musical,” I hope you’ll still pardon my skepticism.