“Candyman” is one of those movies that’s stuck somewhere between extraordinary and hopelessly muddled. Director Bernard Rose has a knack for creating scenes that work very well on their own, but seems to have a hard time with cohesion and follow-through: It’s often hard to piece together the mythology behind Candyman, not to mention what exactly his master plan is and what his motivations are, given that the explanations seem to change depending on the narrative’s scene-by-scene requirements. Additionally, the underlying theme of racism is poorly fleshed out, and unfortunately the resulting movie seems to be somewhere between a movie about racism and a movie that’s unintentionally racist. All of it makes the finished product frustrating to watch, because so many individual scenes are strong, the score is instantly memorable, and the acting is first-rate: Tony Todd is both a menacing and tragic figure at once and has screen presence for days, and he’s well-matched by Virginia Madsen, who brings warmth and sincerity to a role that could easily have spun out of control in the hands of a lesser actress. Ultimately this is the type of movie that should have been edited and re-arranged before its release to clarify the plotline, flesh out its own themes, and establish a cohesive, coherent mythology for its central boogeyman, but as it is, it’s an occasionally effective but flawed and problematic effort.
Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)