Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

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Tim Burton and Johnny Depp are a match made in heaven; two legends of the cinema that have teamed up to make the films they want to make, not those that will appease the Academy or major studios. Once again Burton has used Depp as a muse for his dark, gothic, fantastically over-the-top storytelling and anyone who enjoys either the director or actor will enjoy the ride that is Sweeney Todd. Based on the Broadway musical, the film version tells the same story of a barber who lost his family to a corrupt judge and the revenge he seeks after a long exile, but is framed in Burton's demonic vision. Depp will surprise many, not with his spot-on eccentric performance as Todd, but with his more than adept singing ability. He is in top form and has created yet another epic character that will surely be a pop culture phenomenon alongside Captain Jack Sparrow and Edward Scissorhands. Helena Bonham Carter, Burton's wife and another of his longtime film collaborators, is frightening and strangely attractive as Mrs. Lovett, who owns the building in which Todd's dangerous barber shop is housed. The supporting cast was well chosen including a hilarious but short-lived performance by Sacha Baron Cohen as Adolpho Pirelli, Harry Potter film veterans Alan Rickman as the deliciously evil Judge Turpin and Timothy Spall as the disturbing Beadle Bamford, and a strong performance by Ed Sanders in his first feature film role as the young boy Toby. The visuals are typical of Burton films; amazingly imagined and even more amazingly constructed. The bleak environment sets the perfect atmosphere for the buckets of blood that are to spill later in the film. Although the film succeeds as a musical, the songs are a bit long at times. Not all of the tracks are entirely unique, and some viewers will grow anxious for songs to end and for the dialogue to return. What makes Sweeney Todd a successful adaptation, though, are the great acting, frightening visuals, and appropriate recipe of horror and humor.

Good for: Depp and Burton fans, fans of musicals and plays

Bad for: squeamish people, people who don't like musicals

The Gallery
The Economist: * * * * *
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