Hot from the phenomenal success of Batman, filmmaker Tim Burton turned his attention to his first fully-formed personal film, Edward Scissorhands — the fantastic tale of an artificially-created young man (Johnny Depp), whose creator (Vincent Price) dies before he can replace the scissors that serve as makeshift hands with more traditional ones. The film not only cemented Burton’s reputation as a major filmmaker with a unique voice, it took Depp from 21 Jump Street TV pin-up boy to bona fide movie star, offered Winona Ryder the best role of her career, and afforded composer Danny Elfman the material to inspire his finest score up to that time.
Gloriously romantic and endlessly inventive, the film presented one of the most on-target depictions of childhood and adolescence ever committed to film, and a uniquely perceptive portrait of suburbia as a place at once absurd and strangely appealing.
Looked at dispassionately today, it’s easy to see certain weaknesses in the approach that might not have been obvious in 1990. Burton’s depiction of the homecoming-queen cheerleader (Ryder) as a person who’d dump her jock boyfriend — if only she saw how sensitive and fine the lonely outsider geek is — seems a little too much like facile, wish-fulfillment fantasy. But the overall film is so charming, unique and unabashedly romantic that it seems pointless to quibble. Anyone who can resist Ryder’s “Ice Dance” or the film’s final scenes must be made of stone.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke