Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

2008-04-11 11:25
What it's about:

Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp) is a mild mannered London barber with a beautiful wife and child. The jealous Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) has Barker arrested on false charges, and forces himself upon Mrs. Barker. Years later the bitter Barker returns to London and opens a barbershop under the name Sweeney Todd. Aided by the murderous Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), Todd seeks revenge against Turpin and the world in general.

Read what a Channel24 reader thought.

What we thought of it:

Tim Burton is no stranger to musicals and many of his best films have featured intricate song and dance numbers, courtesy of the spooky musical genius of Danny Elfman. Elfman easily combines the sweetest pop sensibilities with the eerie and grotesque, mirroring Burton's cinematic vision. Sadly Danny Elfman is nowhere to be heard, and his contribution is glaringly obvious.

Sweeney Todd sees Burton at the top of his game, giving us a detailed and horrific vision of Victorian London. The cast of characters fit brilliantly into this twisted world and it all looks absolutely fantastic.

The illusion is shattered after about the third minute of brooding orchestration and dirge – a dirge that's continuous for about three quarters of the total running time. The story is mostly told in song, and because of the prominent accents, it's difficult to catch all the lyrics. The tunes themselves are all rather dour and bleed together like filthy clouds in a grey London sky, giving the whole movie an extremely sombre atmosphere that robs many of Burton's potentially playful set pieces of energy and humour.

There are some scenes that transcend the gloom and really shine, like the shaving contest scene, and Mrs. Lovett's fantasy of marrying Sweeney, but mostly they are bogged down by the music.

As a massive Tim Burton fan, it pains me to be so negative about Sweeney Todd, but it is the perfect example of a great movie ruined by a single awful element. If you know the stage play and like the score, then this will be a 5 star movie for you, but otherwise you'll be yawning through song after boring song.

- Ivan Sadler
A musical about a Victorian barber's murderous spree of revenge killings against the people responsible for the death of his wife.

Kitt 2008/02/26 8:54 AM
Uhuh It's so sad that have to agree with you on this one!
Jimmy 2008/02/26 11:06 PM
THE MUSIC IS NOT THE FAULT; IT'S BURTION'S OBSESSION WITH DOOM AND GLOOM Don't blame the music. Blame Tim Burton for this travesty. The music Sondheim wrote for "Sweeney Todd" is amongst the most glorious musical comedy scores in the history of the genre. And here I must emphasise the word "comedy". Mrs Lovett's songs are witty, light and very tuneful, but, as interpreted by Tim Burton and his sadly miscast paramour, Helena Bonham-Carter, they have, indeed, been turned into dirges. Burton's obsession with the macabre has led him to jettison the wit and Sondheim's lightness of touch. He has turned Mrs Lovett into a mirror image of Sweeney Todd, instead of the droll, coarse and entirely pragmatic figure of fun she should be. Instead, Depp and Bonham-Carter come across as brooding, evil twins, rather than victims of society, for whom one should feel at least a twinge of sorrow. Sadly, it needed a director like Rob Marshall ("Chicago") to elicit stronger performances from the cast. and to do the original score and libretto justice. I can't help wondering what a
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