Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Director:  Tim Burton
Cast:  Johnny DeppWinona RyderDianne Wiest
Plot:  An uncommonly gentle young man, who happens to have scissors for hands, falls in love with a beautiful teenage girl.

Genre:  Drama / Fantasy / Romance
Awards:  Nom. for 1 Oscar - Best Makeup
Runtime:  105min
Rating:  PG for some violence.

Arguably Tim Burton’s most well-known, and possibly most beloved film in his entire filmography, Edward Scissorhands is a heartwarming, and at times dark story about a life-size man-doll with scissors for hands. His name is Edward and is played by a young Johnny Depp in his first role for Burton. 

Depp would later form a productive partnership with the eccentric director in the next two decades making pictures such as Ed Wood (1994), Sleepy Hollow (1999), and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007).

Edward Scissorhands is a conventional story told in flashback that is bookended by two scenes involving a grandmother telling a bedtime story to her granddaughter, who asked about the origin of snow. 

The story is about Edward who, in the distant past, lived in a castle on the mountaintop. His creator died before fixing human arms on him, thus the scissors for hands. He was lonely. Until one day, a woman from the community down below came by to sell cosmetics. She brought him to her home and made Edward part of her family. Predictably, Edward became infatuated with the woman’s daughter, Kim (played by Winona Ryder), who slowly fell in love with him.

Despite Burton telling the story like a fairy tale, Edward Scissorhands does not end up like one. It is a bittersweet film that tries to seek for the viewer’s sympathy. With a visual style that is unmistakably Burton’s, the film unfortunately does not have a script good enough to match the visual flair. The dialogue is dull and falls in the territory of clich├ęs. Very often, Edward is made the subject of ridicule in his new town, and even though it is done for humor purposes, too much reliance on these so-called gags to propel what little original plot it has unsurprisingly backfires.

That being said, in a film with a draggy second act, it has a moment that would probably be etched in the minds of viewers – the ice dance sequence. Although short-lived, that sequence involving a beautiful display of “man”-made snowfall is surprisingly touching and I would even extend my praise by calling it arguably the most magical moment in all of Burton’s films. 

Danny Elfman’s dreamy, choral score also heightens the sequence dramatically. The musical themes repeat in the last act, and by then, they truly flow with the narrative. The comparatively more powerful finale redeems the experience of sitting through a build-up that is less than inspired. Not a must-watch unless you are a fan of Burton and Depp.


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