Crazy as it may sound, this year marks the 30th anniversary of the iconic Tim Burton film, Edward Scissorhands. If that doesn’t make you feel old, I don’t know what will. It made me feel old, and that’s saying something. I rewatched the movie to commemorate the anniversary and –
It was really boring.
Edward Scissorhands is a man who was created by an inventor who is every bit a mad scientist. The inventor lives in a castle on a hill overlooking 1960s iconic suburbia. Robots and machines fill this castle making salads and cookies. Before Edward was complete, his creator dies, leaving him unfinished. Instead of a pair of functioning hands, he has multiple pairs of scissors in place of fingers making him look a bit like Freddy Kruger.
Edward would have been content to stay up in the castle, isolated and alone, but is instead found by an Avon rep, Peg Boggs, who decides he needs to come live with her. As Edward has only known his castle world, the “modern” world comes as a bit of a shock.
All the nosy neighboring housewives start their gossip and a series of hijinks ensues where they discover that Edward is good at topiary, grooming dogs, and cutting hair. When Edward doesn’t give one of the housewives what she wants, she starts spreading rumors about him that he’s different and dangerous.
It all comes to a head when Peg’s daughter comes home with her complete dick of a boyfriend. When he discovers that Edward can open locks, he comes up with an idiotic plan.
Everything goes wrong, naturally, and Edward is chased out of the suburb back to his castle where he lives to this day.
I’ll admit, I liked the movie a lot more as a kid where the novelty of Edward’s scissor hands was still interesting and watching him be really good at a few unique things was fun. But like most movies rewatched as an adult, I found there were lots of really weird choices made by the writers.
First, it moves sooooo slowly. Granted, movies from the early nineties tended to spend more time building up the vague idea of ambiance, but this was a grueling sort of slow development that felt pointless.
As a writer, I get what they were trying to achieve. Edward is coming from one created world and being transplanted into another which is just as artificial. All the houses are painted in candy bright pastels and are uniformly boring. All the housewives have nothing better to do than gossip and paint their nails until their husbands get home. Edward is the only interesting thing that has happened or will happen.
Showing up far too late in the movie for any real meaning is a forced ethics discussion where Edward has to weigh what’s right over what is kind and he chooses kindness. This is important for the finale where he has to make another difficult ethical choice, this time choosing his own life and that of the girl he likes over the dick boyfriend’s life.
If there’s a moral to the story it’s that everyone should mind their own business or people get hurt.
If you love Tim Burton and his imagery, there are some fascinating bits where you’ll see his earliest style coming through. It’s all over the castle and its grounds. It’s in Edward’s original costume, and it’s loosely in the story as being different is explored.
If you are craving a hit of 60s nostalgia, that’s there as well from the styles of the homes, to the colors, to the stereotyping, to the glass grapes, and to the vintage cars. There’s even a rotary phone and corded land lines.
As one of Johnny Depp’s earliest roles, it’s really strange to see him playing a character with so few speaking lines. He literally spends the movie blank faced and being dragged around by other people.
After those few things there’s nothing in this film that’s terribly interesting. The story isn’t well developed, the characters feel like cardboard, and it moves beyond slowly.
I give Edward Scissorhands 2/5 stars for being slow and boring with only a few rare interesting or beautiful bits. Bonus point added for Danny Elfman’s music.