I am a big huge fan of Tim Burton movies.
1. The Times review is right. The movie is pointless, lifeless.
3. It's almost as if as they were nearing completion someone said "Hey wait a minute this doesn't have any Tim Burton stuff in it," so they quickly added a bit of buffoonery, but it is totally embarassing.
4. Hollywood has a formula that it can't seem to escape. A hero forms a posse of colorful allies with big hearts who are in love with the hero. There's an evil adversary and she has a posse of despicable, frightening and evil allies. The movie is a buildup to the final showdown. The two do battle. The hero wins. The adversary is humilated and most of his posse is killed. There's a closing scene where everyone agrees life is great and the credits roll. It's Star Wars meets Harry Potter, Avatar meets Indiana Jones. Every movie with a budget fits this template, with the exception of parts of recent Pixar movies (they always include the basic elements but it doesn't always completely dominate the plot). Once you realize this is what you're watching, unless you really get off on special effects, you might as well walk out.
7. Next time let Tim Burton do a Tim Burton movie. Break new ground. Big Fish was great. At least the parts that sucked represent risks taken. This movie took no chances, it was boring. I want great acting, and stuff to think about and to laugh about. I like dark comedy. Sweeney Todd and Alice in Wonderland were great titles, but neither produced an interesting Tim Burton movie.
9. Probably because it's a Disney movie, the characters lacked the usual Burton depravity, seen in Beetlejuice, Nightmare Before Christmas or Corpse Bride. The ghoulishness in Burtonia can be very friendly, like the zombies in Corpse Bride. Or musical like Oogie Boogie in Nightmare. Or humorous like the cigarette-smoking angel of death in Beetlejuice. Or the poor misunderstood Frankenstein -- Edward Scissorhands, who was only trying to do good, yet was run off by the villagers. Other reviewers say that Burton movies lack plot direction, but I disagree. The plots don't always end happily, but they often end with a song, nonetheless. I doubt if Disney would let the film be anything but colorful, but even children like a little depravity as long as it's not too dark.