Case Number 12484


Fox // 1990 // 100 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // November 29th, 2007

The Charge

From the imagination of Tim Burton.

Opening Statement

After achieving early success with major motion pictures involving a garishly ill-tailored man-boy, a nutty conjurer of the netherworld, and a brooding dark hero, Tim Burton set off to tell an original tale of an unusual creation that simply wanted to fit in. The tone and experience of Edward Scissorhands, then, appears to spill forth from Burton's own diary that seemingly also tells of an unusual fellow who doesn't fit the mold of being "normal" yet can find success through his unusual talents.

Facts of the Case

It's hard to believe that, just north of the bold pastel colors of this suburban neighborhood stands a dark and foreboding mansion that appears as unoccupied as it does unkempt. But for Avon consultant Peg Boggs (Dianne Wiest, Parenthood), every house within sight is worth a doorbell ringing. Imagine her surprise when she discovers an odd young man, scarred and scared with unusual scissor-like hands. As if she were rescuing a stray puppy, Peg invites "Edward" to live with her and her family. Husband Bill (Alan Arkin, Cooperstown) takes to the young man while young Kevin (Robert Oliveri, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids) just thinks he's cool. But teenage Kim (Wynona Ryder, Girl, Interrupted) is intrigued by Edward and his apparent gentle talents of topiary and hairstyling. Of course, Kim's boyfriend Jim (Anthony Michael Hall, National Lampoon's Vacation) thinks this scissor guy is a freak and is determined to keep him far away from his girlfriend.

The Evidence

Without a doubt, Tim Burton lives in a world all his own. As he has described Edward Scissorhands as his most personal work, we learn far more about the eccentric director than the character of Edward himself. Self-described as a lonely and, thereby, imaginative child, Burton's film worlds are generally basked in a steel-blue glow that are dark yet not entirely foreboding. He tends to draw from the same stylistic catalog of elements that offer dark carnival touches in and around a world of abruptly delineated colors and textures. The darker elements of this picture, then, utilize the same palette that delivered Batman and Beetlejuice. The starkly pastel neighborhood is reminiscent of the styling used in Pee Wee's Big Adventure and, later, in Big Fish. Arguably, then, Burton works within a single "film world" and spins visually similarly yarns from it time and time again; some applaud this while others allege he's simply producing a monotonous stream of like-styled product.

Of course, the standout of Edward Scissorhands that tops Burton's craftsmanship has to be the performance by a young Depp. Garish as he is -- scarred, pallid, and leather-clad -- Depp manages to deliver a very impish look and mannerism, exuding an innocence born of his seclusion. He carefully navigates the complicated emotions of rejection and inferiority in contrast to the natural reactions of self-preservation and retaliation. Without Depp, this would be just another excursion through the usual Burton dark ride.

This Blu-ray exclusive release from Fox provides a largely sensational 1080p / MPEG-2 encoded image. For the majority of the presentation, the image is incredibly crisp, clear, and well-saturated. Black levels are excellently managed, eking out every practical shadow detail. There are some sequences, however, where the image takes on the look of a pan-and-scan blowup that looks splotchy and amateurish; thankfully this only occurs on a few brief occasions. The audio is offered in a suitable DTS HD 4.0 Master Lossless track that provides dialogue clarity amid the excellence of Danny Elfman's characteristic score. The dynamics of the track are somewhat lost by the fact there is no low-end signal and the rear channels deliver identical information. Although the soundstage is generally full and balanced, the unusual track configuration leaves us feeling more could have been achieved with a proper remix. Extras on the disc include some -- but not all -- of the features found on the Anniversary Edition standard-definition DVD. While a large portion of the cast interviews are not included, you will get the two separate audio commentaries, on from Burton and the other from composer Elfman (both are rather subdued so don't expect a crop of lively anecdotes). Next up is a brief 4-minute making-of featurette plus two theatrical trailers. The other features from the Anniversary disc that you won't find here are the art gallery and TV spots.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

There is a tenderness to Edward Scissorhands which serves as a testament to Burton's proclamation of the personal nature of the picture. Listening to his commentary track reveals his childlike disposition and his unease with the Hollywood machinery at the time. At times he sounds very much like a little boy lost, anxious for acceptance and understanding. With this perspective in mind, the film surpasses its surface production values and manages to touch you deeper with its inherent reality and parallels to the director's own mindset. Add to this the fact that the picture is actually Christmas-themed and you'll recognize that Burton has some unresolved matters (or unfulfilled dreams) regarding holiday celebrations.

Closing Statement

While Edward Scissorhands now serves as another picture cut from the Burton design template, the excellent performance by Depp as well as the deeply personal underpinnings of the tale make it one of the director's better fantasies. On Blu-ray, the presentation is a clear upgrade from the previous standard definition release and, therefore, is worthy of a purchase.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2007 Dennis Prince; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 91
Audio: 87
Extras: 83
Acting: 89
Story: 89
Judgment: 89

Perp Profile
Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 4.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)

* English
* Cantonese
* Korean
* Spanish

Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks
* Director's Commentary
* Composer's Commentary
* Making-of Featurette
* Theatrical Trailers

* IMDb