Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Sweeney ToddAnother Sunday that we couldn't manage to get out into the countryside and ended up spending a few hours looking at sofas (sigh). So, a movie was needed to cheer up the evening and Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd sounded just the ticket. Here's a summary of the plot…
The story is based on the hit Broadway musical which tells the infamous story of Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp). A simple barber, Barker and his wife Lucy (Laura Michelle Kelly) are living peacefully in mid-nineteenth century London with their little daughter but when evil Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) covets Barker's wife, he has him falsely imprisoned and deported.

Many years later Barker returns to London under the new name of Sweeney Todd but when he visits the pie shop of old friend Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), she tells him that his wife had poisoned herself and that his daughter Johanna (Jayne Wisener) was now the legal ward of Judge Turpin. Mrs. Lovett encourages Todd to open up his barber shop in a spare room above her pie shop and the two enter into a diabolical blood and pie fest as he takes out his rage on unsuspecting customers while plotting to free Johanna and kill the evil Turpin.

Okay it's a musical! We weren't entirely sold on that idea but it works and Tim Burton was the right choice of director to do it. He's already has some experience of the genré with the animated tales Corpse Bride and The Nightmare Before Chistmas although this is a live action version. Burton really knows how to do a gothic movie and this is no exception - limited colour palette, the cast with pale makeup and dark shadowy eyes and with costumes and hairstyles to match.

Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett
Johnny Depp is marvellous as the tortured and enraged Todd while Bonham Carter plays Mrs. Lovett beautifully. Also excellent is Timothy Spall as the appalling nasty Beadle Bamford, Alan Rickman does the evil Judge Turpin to a tee and Sacha Baron Cohen turns in a wonderfully, over-the-top performance as Signor Adolfo Pirelli, Todd's competitor in the barbering business. It's no suprise to see Depp and Bonham Carter here as they are both Burton favourites. They both played in his Corpse Bride and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory while Depp also starred in Sleepy Hollow, Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands and Bonham Carter appeared in Big Fish and Planet of the Apes.

The story of Sweeney Todd was written sometime back in the mid nineteenth century so it's a pretty well-known tale. It's been done several times before this and I remember Freddie Jones doing an excellent portrayal of Todd in a TV version back in 1970. However, Depp certainly does the business with the character and he can even sing. The musical aspect of the movie does help to avoid it being a slasher flic as the blood certainly does flow once he gets going.

Sweeney Todd
If you're squeamish at all, then you might be better avoiding this one as it is pretty grim in the gore stakes. I'm not sure it deserved an 18 certificate but it's definitely not one for the kids. Fans of Depp or Burton will love it.

Genre: Crime, Musical, Thriller
My Rating: 8/10

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a big fan of Depp, I watched with avid enthusiasm. But this film/musical was not for me. I couldn't wait for the end - unusual for me when watching this legend of an actor.

Perhaps I'm just too squeamish.

On the positive side, the music was interesting, as was the dark, brooding hue of the film. Just a little more sanity and less blood would have helped me feel more entertained.