Edward Scissorhands. The beginning of a long list of films directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp. What is now becoming a bit tiring was not always so. It’s not hard to see why Burton’s knack for the odd and Depp’s desire to break free of the prison he perceived 21 Jump Street was becoming were a match made in heaven.
Scissorhands opens by painting a dark, isolated world that Edward (Johnny Depp), a boy left with scissors for hands due to his inventor dying before completing the job, lives in and the bright, uniform world where everyone else lives. It’s not long before a persistent, if not outright oblivious, mother and Avon sales lady (Dianne Wiest), Peg Boggs, comes to Edwards gothic castle of a home. Without much fear Peg decides to take Edward home with her and from there the fish out of water story begins.
Burton’s knack for creating an almost cartoon like world is on full display. Even though Edward is clearly an outcast he seems closer to “normal” than those occupying Burton’s portrayal of a typical suburb in the US of A. It’s not that the Boggs family or their neighbors are caricatures, it’s that they live in a reality that is all their own. When the neighbors see Peg driving Edward to her home, they all call one another desperate to see who this strange creature is. It’s not long before they all meet and Edward becomes the town’s landscaper and hair stylist. He shapes every plant possible into all sorts of objects – dinosaurs, teddy bears, people, etc. And the women all get original hairdos thanks to Edward’s fine work with the sheers.
All is good except Edward longs for real acceptance, not just appreciation of his usefulness. His heart is taken by Peg’s daughter, Kim Boggs (Winona Ryder), who has a jealous boyfriend, Jim (Anthony Michael Hall). Kim initially ignores Edward’s awkward pleasantries but as time goes on she sees that he’s a kind hearted guy who is imprisoned by his lack of hands. Jim notices this and gets Edward into trouble. Mr. Boggs and the neighborhood as a whole become suspicious of Edward as a result. Edward begins to realize that even if he does the right thing, he’ll likely never be accepted into the community. Meanwhile Kim’s appreciation for Edward grows greater.
Even though it is only 1 hour and 40 minutes, Scissorhands can feel a bit long in the second act. The story is a simple one and to stretch it beyond ninety minutes is, well, a stretch. Edward is close to a silent film star as he says very little which is fitting for him (especially in his predicament) until the story drags beyond its ability to hold interest. At that point we need the main character to do more than look pathetically in the camera.
Fortunately the last act is surprisingly good. When the world is a fairy tale with a pinch of reality, it can be hard to create tension and suspense, as everything can seem a bit off. The emotional connection with the characters can be hard to feel. The story can end without much oomph. But Burton makes magic happen and sees a story through to the end. He, Depp and the rest of the strong cast turn a simple tale into a mostly enchanting film.