Johnny Depp Needs A Rest From Wonderland

Early word on Alice in Wonderland is that it’s wretched. Not that early buzz matters when pressed up against the hairy-chested brawn of studio marketing and Johnny “loved by all” Depp– (doing his best impression of Elijah Wood).

To celebrate, Obsessed with film rolls out the Alice In Wonderland red carpet with an interesting take on Johnny Depp and what he’s become “at the hands of Tim Burton”.

In the last five years, Depp has made the following films: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the three Pirates of the Caribbean, Public Enemies, and Alice in Wonderland.  In only one – Public Enemies– could anyone argue that Depp played a recognizable human character that wasn’t a complete cartoon. The rest of those performances are shallow, one-note performances lacking in the depth that made some of his earlier craziness so enduring. Even his Jack Sparrow characterization, much vaunted by a stunned public at the time, is lunacy without any real point.


Since Depp’s re-arrival amidst his much ballyhooed performance as Pirates of the Caribbean’s Jack Sparrow, the guy’s become the every man’s favorite actor. The general gushing about his acting skills as based solely on Captain Jack has always bothered me. Probably because it comes off as a false analysis of greatness: A cheap card trick that leaves the audiences giddily clapping with flat hands when the real magic was to be found elsewhere. When Johnny Depp was first cast as Jack Sparrow, was anyone talking about Depp as an all-star headliner off of his previous films The Libertine or Secret Window?Quick answer: No.

Despite Sparrow’s re-arrival with his unexpected quirks (“a gay pairate!?”) Sparrow was simply a characiture of eccentricities… but for what? Depp fopped and fayed and lurched around the poop deck– but where did this behavior ever pay off in the film beyond quirky enjoyment? It didn’t. Ever. And while that defiantly worked for the Pirates series, the subsequent overuse of Depp’s weirdly unexpected window dressing is coming off more and more like playtime dressup which is maddening, because Depp can act.

So here comes Alice in Wonderland.

“Once-promising” is far too intentionally defeatist– Depp crossed the barrier of spring chicken “promise” to earned “deliverance” a long time ago. For a recent example of Depp’s skill, Public Enemies is a rental away. Depp’s portrayal of John Dillinger is a performance that rooted Public Enemies in accessibility and rescued it from the stoically procedural; it’s a a performance of swagger, bravado and vulnerability. And it’s exactly those performances that inspire my exasperation when Depp trots out another goofy fop.
Johnny Depp has gravitas and chops. I disagree with the articles point that Depp is being “ruined”, but it’s past time for him to give the gimmick-laden Tim Burton and Jack Sparrow performances a very, very long break. Here’s to that sabbatical starting with his next, The Rum Diary.

13 comments On Johnny Depp Needs A Rest From Wonderland

  • you are a fuck face

  • Dan, that post is spot on. Truly, what other roles has Depp been in that have been memorable? Public Enemies is great, but this guy is the white Samuel L. Jackson to some extent. He’s solid, but not stellar. Just like Tim Burton movies, except I’d give the nod to them being more shit than solid. Just because you add corny music and bright colors (and actors acting liked stoned-out cartoon characters) doesn’t make the movie good. I absolutely don’t want to see Alice in Wonderland.

    And as for you being a “fuck face,” that comment speaks volumes about your post. Nothing even remotely intelligent to add but insults. Thanks, Samm22 (see: pedophile), for confirming the relevance and accuracy of Dan’s post.

  • Im no Depp fanboi but i disagree that his Jack Sparrow was a shallow one note performance lacking depth.

    Oscar worthy? No..its Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean! Wtf did you want him to do as Sparrow be Oscar Schindler?
    It’s a movie based on a ride in Disneyland!

    As Dan stated..”“Once-promising” is far too intentionally defeatist– Depp crossed the barrier of spring chicken “promise” to earned “deliverance” a long time ago.”


    This Ray Derouse is exactly the kind of stuffy self righteous movie critic that makes me roll my eyes.

    I agree he needs to stop doing Burton movies, seriously..and that goes for you too Helena Bonham Carter.

  • All of you are stupid! I’ve always taken issue with cinema wanks wanting everything to be overly serious dramatic excellence a la Wild Strawberries and other such plodding nonsense. What is wrong with Tim Burton?!? His weird disturbing expression is refreshingly honest! I LOVE a film that embraces the WEIRD and not just the DRAMATIC; some of us go to movies because they are NOT dramatic. We have enough drama in our lives, let us see some fantastically imaginative wackiness that forces us OUT of our boring little world. Depp embraced the weird with Benny and Joon, Edward Scissor-hands, etc., and REPEATEDLY showed that he could out-serious the most serious with acting tour-de-forces such as Fear and Loathing (yeah… try and figure that one out, then read the original author and REALLY be amazed with how brilliantly he was channeled…) and Platoon, Sweeny Todd and Finding Neverland, all the while eschewing the accolades coming his way and retreating to his own private island and his chateau in France. Here is an actor who will NEVER be the norm and doesn’t need you to validate his existance! Perhaps this is why y’all find him so distasteful?! I didn’t really like the Pirates series, too melodramatic and predictable. HOWEVER… His was the most memorable role, without him the series dies, and you’ve got to pay the bills if you’re going to appear in disturbingly wonderful Tim Burton flicks…

  • @Erik-

    Take a breath. Reread.

    This is a critique– not a validation. If you’re honest and objective, you know I’m right. Your response underlined all of his performances from films past and reiterated my point.

    Look, as I mentioned above, Depp’s a great actor. That’s why it’s disappointing to see Depp dipping into the same well of lisping, flailing surface caricatures. He doesn’t need to be Mr. Serious, but the recent performances mentioned? They’re all theatrics– and while theatrics can be fun, the path he’s frequently trod over his last few films is pigeon-holing him into the tiresome.

  • OK Dan; I’ll give you that, but only up to a point… I WILL again reiterate that his ‘fun’ roles have opened up audiences to cinema such as Sweeny Todd that your ‘normal’ audience would never otherwise be at. Dan, I was not JUST reacting to your review (which I only sort of disagree with but we’ll go bowling some time and work it all out I’m sure) but more with Misters Danny and Andy who appear to have a grudge against Burton and other such fun roles…

  • @Erik-

    Look at all this common ground. We’re like a bipartisan film committee.

    You’re right about Sweeny Todd. I actually enjoyed that twisted little film, but I know most people would have skipped it all together without Depp in the billing.

    Interestingly, I wonder how that translates to any perceived responsibility he might feel (if any) to break free of all the Burton collaborations and open audience eyes to other stuff that’s out there.

  • Depp appearing as Jack Sparrow was a novelty. He minced around on screen, all limp wristed and sharp come-backs and let’s admit it, it was fun. Sweeney Todd was a musical role, that too was different, although you do have to ask who else could have carried off the part? But I’m beginning to think that maybe Depp sees these parts in Burton’s films as “safe”. I haven’t read a good review for Alice yet, but it will be a hit because cinema goers will see it as yet another novelty. It’s not going to bomb, we know that, no matter how bad it really is. A serious actor who doesn’t doubt his ability takles diverse and sometimes risky roles. Depp fails to do this and to be honest, it makes me wonder if he doubts his own ability.

  • I agree with you Susan: Safe is the word that describes Depp to a T.

  • “A serious actor who doesn’t doubt his ability takles diverse and sometimes risky roles.”

    A good point. He used to do it– and I think still can (upcoming Rum Diaries). It’s just these “fun” here-nor-there Burton collaborations are seemingly never ending.

  • I think you guys are WAY overthinking this.

    The guy has done some fantastic roles in his career, to say he only does “safe” is being a bit short sighted.

    So the guy has done every tim burton project ever done..ever. Maybe they just dig working together, maybe its not only a good time for them(safe)but also a good paycheck, maybe they like staring dreamily into one anothers eyes..who knows but, to say Depp always takes easy, safe roles is kinda silly.

    Meh..i feel stupid for even commenting on this thread again, its jonny depp, the guy lives on a tropical island ffs and likes the french, i dont feel one bit sorry for the guy.

  • Great article, Dan.

    I know that I may receive death threats from the Depp-fanboys out there, but I probably won’t see Alice in Wonderland precisely because Johnny Depp is in it. His “quirky” characters are obnoxious, and I usually end up hating the movie BECAUSE of Depp. He is a good actor, but I’d like to see him and Burton get a divorce… I think it is holding him back.

    Let me add, if I ever see Jack Sparrow in real life, I will punch him in his ginger face.

  • You are all forgetting 21 jump street!!!! :)

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