EDWARD Scissorhands,'' directed by Tim Burton, is a smartly, sweetly told fairy tale that goes a little dark as it draws to a close.
The downturn, almost at the end, doesn't really scuttle the film, but it would have been that much better without it.
''Edward Scissorhands'' begins on exactly the right note. This is a fairy tale, and Burton, who co-wrote the story on which the film is based, doesn't want us to forget it.
As the movie begins, we are given a closeup of the castle in which the Scissor boy lives. It is obviously a miniature, and when we move on to the town below, all the houses, built the same, are done in pastel colors.
''Edward Scissorhands,'' played with convincing incomprehension by Johnny Depp, lives in the castle, all alone. His creator, the man who made him, died of a heart attack before he could outfit Edward with human hands.
Edward is content to live in isolation until the day the Avon lady calls, and she, as played by Diane Wiest, is one of the film's most important assets. It is hard to imagine the film without Weist. Burton couldn't have found anyone better suited to the role of a ditsy local who never makes a sale and dresses like Jackie Kennedy.
''You just come home with me,'' says the Avon lady to Edward. He is delighted to do so, and the woman's family accepts him, immediately. So do most of the neighbors, a group that includes a predatory housewife who wants to get Edward into the sack because sex with Edward would be something different.
There is also a Bible-quoting woman who warns everyone against Edward. He is the devil, she says. When she isn't preaching, she is at home playing the organ.
Winona Ryder, who also co-stars in the new ''Mermaids,'' is the Avon lady's daughter, a girl who falls in love with Edward. Anthony Michael Hall is the daughter's boyfriend, who wants to eliminate Edward when he becomes aware that his girlfriend has fallen in love with this boy who has scissors for hands.
On one level, ''Edward Scissorhands'' is a simple fairy tale. On another, it says all there is to say about humanity, the good people and the not so good.
Happily, the film does all this with wit, charm and a score that is completely fitting to the material. The only sour note is sounded in the final segment, and by that time we may be willing to accept it because all that has preceded it is so inspired, so good.
''Edward Scissorhands,'' in which Edward does topiary figures for all the homeowners in the neighborhood, also has Edward go to school for a show-and-tell session and guest on a television talk show. Edward also does hair for the ladies in the neighborhood, and when he has finished with them, he does their dogs.
Vincent Price plays the Mad Inventor, the man who creates Edward. Burton, apparently, grew up on Price's movies.
''Edward Scissorhands'' opens here today.
*** A young man, whose creator died before he could fit his creation with human hands, is adopted by an Avon lady and her family.
CAST: Johnny Depp, Diane Wiest, Winona Ryder, Anthony Michael Hall, Kathy Baker, Vincent Price, Alan Arkin
DIRECTOR: Tim Burton
RATING: PG-13 (language, violence)
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes