Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

posted December 21, 2007 12:41:46 PM CST | 6 comments

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Musicals have been making a comeback and theyíve tended to succeed. No matter what the content, whether it be the quest for fame in Chicago, the race-relations of Hairspray, or the music-biz retrospective of Dreamgirls (and yes, Iím aware Iím horribly simplifying all of these stories), they all strike a chord with audiences and really, who doesnít love a catchy, sing-songy tune when they want to be entertained. And look! Here comes Tim Burton and Johnny Depp! They also made a musical recently with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! That film was just delightful! And now theyíre doing another one? Iím sure it will be a grand old time at the movies. Out of curiosity, whatís it about?

Oh. Dear. God.

For those that arenít expecting Sweeney Todd, hereís the gist: itís about a barber who kills people and has them turned into meat pies. It ainít exactly Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (although they do have hilariously similar opening credits).

I probably donít need to tell you much about Tim Burton and Johnny Depp seeing as this is their sixth collaboration. But what I do need to tell you is that this is Burtonís darkest and goriest film to date. Iím not usually bothered by blood but the amount that flows through this film had me surprisingly nauseous by the final credits. While Burton lets the blood spew and his dollhouse-aesthetic suit the macabre proceedings, he usually doesnít know how to bring Sondheimís songs to life. This failing is at its worst when the completely uninteresting Anthony (Jamie Campbell Bower) and Johanna (Jayne Wisener) sing their pretty little love songs but can also be damn perfect as seen in Mrs. Lovettís (Helena Bonham Carter) ďBy the SeaĒ.

And itís the love story between Lovett and Todd that makes the film magical. Depp is fine but Carter gives one of her best performances to date. As Mrs. Lovett sheís funny, pathetic, loving, devious, and utterly demented. Sheís far more frightening than Todd because while Todd is basically a full-blown demon beyond redemption, we always see her humanity and for her to be of our species is incredibly disconcerting.

If youíre a fan of the stage production, youíll finally find Burtonís film severely lacking as heís removed any elements of the chorus so the themes of class-warfare are significantly diminished. But if youíre looking at it as a part of Burtonís filmography, youíll see it as one of his best movies. How you want your haircut is up to you, but other than a few nicks and scratches, I say Sweeney Todd is a bloody fantastic.

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