Coming off the success of Beetlejuice and the blockbuster original Batman, Tim Burton apparently could convince studios to fund just about anything he wanted to make. Which explains how one of the weirder Hollywood movies got the green light. It is a fable with its roots in Frankenstein, with the exception that when Ed first comes down off the mountain at the end of the suburban street, everyone in Pastelville just loves him. And why not? They’re never had a gardener like him! He does fantastic topiary, then branches out to dog grooming and hairdressing and ice sculpture.
Only the teenagers don’t like him, which makes perfect sense, because kids that age want to destroy anyone who is different. Winona Ryder doesn’t like him at first, but soon falls in love with him. Then, showing how quickly the mood of a mob can turn, there are a few small injuries and suddenly Edward is a monster. He is hounded back to the castle where he was incompletely created (by the great Vincent Price, in his last film role), and only survives because Winona claims he is dead. (I felt there was much, much more she could have done at many points if only she had a teeny bit of nerve. I didn’t like her at all.)
It’s a nice, if very weird story, particularly in the way that his outlandish appearance is accepted without question at first. But the real star of the show is the narrow little suburban street. Each house is perfectly monochrome, not even any white trim, in pale cotton candy shades. Simply dreadful! All the lawns are perfect. There are only a few trees and shrubs for Edward to sculpt. The environment is so totally sterile it made my skin crawl. Burton seems to have grown up in such an environment, a kid who had trouble making friends, with a rich fantasy life that has served him well in his career.