28 December, 9.30pm C4
Tim Burton makes for an interesting comparison with Spielberg. Here's a director similarly obsessed with the polarity between childhood and the adult world. The major difference is that Burton can't help succumbing to the mischief inside him, while Spielberg badgers away like the class swot. That Burton's biggest commercial successes - the first two Batman films - are also his most muddled works, speaks volumes about his inability to function within other people's confines. But is his most personal film (even more so than Ed Wood) and yet it still feels oddly insubstantial. It's like cracking open the head of someone you believed was a genius, only to find that they have brains of papier-mache.
It's a breezy little picture just the same, and its two worlds - the decaying gothic mansion where its hero is "born", and the kitsch pastel Lego bricks of his adopted home - are very clearly defined. As are its characters. Johnny Depp plays Edward, who is really just a slightly more photogenic Frankenstein's monster, and invests him with as much warmth as it's possible to when you're essentially playing your director. (Edward, like Pee-Wee, Beetlejuice and Jack Skellington, is a transparent Burton- U-Like.)
Dianne Wiest exudes a Ready Brek glow as the suburban Avon lady who brings Edward out of his shell, and there is sparky support from Alan Arkin, Winona Ryder and a poodle. The film is a fairy-tale for artists who have been screwed over: Edward is adored by Wiest's ditsy neighbours just as long as he remains the new curiosity on the block, sculpting interesting haircuts and hedges. But those unwieldy blades on the ends of each arm mean that, like Lenny in Of Mice and Men, his shows of affection can turn into clumsy violence. Winona knows he's got a heart of gold, of course, but everyone else misunderstands him and uses and abuses him and tries to compromise his vision of Batman and - sorry, got art and life a bit confused there. Still, enjoy eh? It's only a movie. RG