Uh… it’s like candy coated vampire lore?
Visually speaking, Dracula is a feast. It’s beautifully lit and bathed in an aura of Victorian sensibilities drenched in crimson and black. It has some stunning old-school sequences like in the beginning, where a beautiful opening montage explains how Dracula came to be a vampire. The costumes are gorgeous; the sets are immaculate.
It’s too bad someone didn’t foist the same care upon the story. What starts out as a feast becomes some sort of sugary confection, like eating a really long-lasting Starburst or something.
For all its pretty trappings, Dracula is threadbare as a movie. We’re all familiar with the plot so I won’t rehash it here, but Dracula rests on Gary Oldman’s shoulders. He does a remarkable job of injecting some measure of humanity and sympathy into a devilish beast, so snaps for you, Gary. Anthony Hopkins shows up as Van Helsing to basically do a crazy old man jig all the way through the movie – watch Dracula and tell me he doesn’t look half-drunk. No, it’s the appalling mix of Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder that finally does the movie in. Bless him, Keanu’s out of his depth in this one. I’m pretty sure everyone knew it too; I don’t get the sense he’s helped any by direction or editing in the slightest. A cringe-inducing attempt at an English accent sinks his already abysmal performance. I adore Keanu, as we’ve previously established, but to watch Keanu try and play a naive man addled and terrified by Dracula is to feel embarrassment for him.
Winona Ryder has small moments of clarity, but Mina Harker is so braindead I’m not sure what Ryder could do except stand around and look pretty and/or horrified. Since Mina is supposed to be the reincarnation of Dracula’s long dead wife, you have to wonder if Dracula loves her in spite of the fact that she’s a dim bulb or because of it. Either way, my God, she gets tiresome quickly.
Much like in life, pretty can only carry you so far. While Dracula starts out entertaining and moving, it loses steam in such a rapid fashion it leaves the viewer sucking on sugar for the next interminable hours.
Yea, verily, it’s like the cinematic equivalent of a damn Everlasting Gobstopper: it feels like it’s never going to end. And when it does, blessedly, you’re struck with the feeling that such a visually inspiring piece of film should at least have an equally moving story to match.
As they say: no dice here. … And it’s a shame. But I enjoy watching it if only for all the neat visuals and beautiful sets.
A guilty pleasure? Oh, sure. Not one of Coppola’s finest cinematic achievements, though.