Starring: Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Sarah Jessica Parker, Patricia Arquette, Bill Murray, Lisa Marie, Jeffrey Jones
Rated R for Some Strong Language
Tim Burton has an obvious love affair for oddball outcasts. "Edward Scissorhands," "Beetlejuice," "Sleepy Hollow," "Big Fish," the list goes on. I suppose it makes sense for him to be drawn to notorious hack director Ed Wood, whose movies were awful enough to gain a cult following in the vein of MST3K or "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Despite never making much money and having an utter lack of talent, Wood made movies by any means possible. And I mean any.
Edward D. Wood Jr. (Depp) would like nothing better to do than to make movies. Unfortunately, with no connections and no experience, not even a Z-list producer like Georgie Weiss (Mike Starr) will take him seriously. However a chance meeting with has been horror icon Bela Lugosi (Landau) nets him a job making a sleazy transvestite picture starring Lugosi. Thus begins the career of one of Hollywood's biggest jokes.
While Burton's affection for Wood is obvious, it doesn't translate to the audience. That's largely because he is so one note. Depp is in fine form, but Burton only shows his boundless enthusiasm and quirky eccentricities. There's very little that's human or sympathetic about him. He's not a deadpan antisocial misfit that pops up in virtually every indie film that's been released since Wes Anderson hit it big (Wood is anything but cynical), but he's pure caricature. More impactful is Martin Landau, who won an Oscar playing the drug-addled cynic Bela Lugosi. Lugosi has accepted the fact that his time in the spotlight is over, and when Ed comes along, it's like his life has found meaning again. The supporting cast, which consists of "the usual misfits and dope addicts," is fine, although they're floating around the sidelines.
More than anything, what "Ed Wood" lacks is heart. I didn't care about anyone in this movie. On some level the film is interesting because it gave me a peek at low-budget filmmaking, but except for Bela Lugosi, no one felt real. Who cares if Ed finds funding for his next disaster? I didn't. And that is the film's Achilles heel.
The film looks great (Burton made the wise decision to shoot it in black and white) and there are some amusing moments here and there. But all in all, there are better movies you can sit down and watch.