Once again Tim Burton. Once again a musical. This time, though, with real actors. And among them, once again, Johnny Depp. And it has been already six the collaborations between the Gothic filmmaker and the idiosyncratic performer. They dare now to reinvent the Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler musical of the same title, a musical that hit Broadway back in 1978 and has been touring since. Of course, and these days this is not news anymore, the story of the demon barber of Fleet street had been visited many times before, including three minor feature films in the thirties and a recent television movie with Ben Kingsley. On the other hand, being a character so popular in the English folklore that is not surprising.
Fictional or not, Sweeney Todd is an English villain and serial killer that has appeared in English language works since the nineteenth century. He is a barber that cuts his victims’ throats with a straight razor. Victims, whose corpses are baked later into meat pies and sold by Mrs. Lovett, his partner in crime.
This is precisely the cornerstone of Burton’s film. The barber Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp) is unjustly sentenced to a life of forced labor in Australia by Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) who steals from him his wife and daughter. Fifteen years later he escapes and is back in London, where he meets baker Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), seeking revenge as Sweeney Todd.
This is, above all, a movie that moves along through songs rather than dialog. It is through the songs that the story is delivered. Those who love the genre will be in their element. Nevertheless, those who are not friends with songs on screen will have a hard time to let themselves be seduced by a story that develops at a low pace for longer than they would have liked it. After the solid preamble the action stabilizes and Burton beats around the bush while waiting for an excellent but late final bloody climax. Something I cannot argue is the excellence of the setting, the beautifully shot black and blood (loads of) London that Burton’s camera goes constantly through, the melancholy of a decadent scenario, the power of the omnipresent tunes, in one word, the style. Yes, this movie is stylish, yes it is.
And then Depp. Truth is, none of the characters he plays can be labeled as usual. Sweeny Todd is just another eccentric odd character to add to his long collection of freak performances. And, to be honest, it is obvious to me that he really enjoys performing those characters. You can like his mannerisms more or less, but you cannot deny that each of his performances drink of his joy for good. Here, he knows how to get his character drunk of the dark humor and melancholy that the film emanates. Bonham Carter, who tends to make me think all the characters she performs are relatives, counts one less collaboration with Burton, despite of being the mother of his son. About Rickman I will just say he shows the same exact faces he showed in perfume: the story of a murderer (2006).
Being overall a decent movie, one leaves the cinema convinced that the three hour long musical might have definitely been more amusing.
For the deadhours of gothics and those who were missing the scissors of Edward and do not need much to be content.
official site | imdb
dr. plim’s word
God… what a bad movie.
I watched this movie over 2 months ago and when I found out that it had been nominated for an Academy Award, a.k.a. The Oscars, (Johnny Depp for best performance by an actor in a leading role) I just had to write something about it.
Firstly, I don’t accept the excuses like “this is a Tim Burton movie”, or “you have to like Tim Burton to appreciate this movie”. It is true that movies have different genres but if we kept making up classifications for each director then there would be no standard of “good movie” or “bad movie”. Instead it would be “Coen brothers movie”, “Tim Burton movie”, “Almodóvar movie” etcetera etcetera. Directors do have their individual styles but something more than that is necessary to make a good movie.
Secondly, the lyrics to the songs are really trivial. Perhaps that was totally intentional, he meant to make the characters say in song (and I have a real hard time calling it “song”!) exactly the same phrases two random people say to each other.
Thirdly, the plot is boring. The movie felt slow and boring.
Forthly, Johnny Depp plays a person with no-affect. He has the same expression the whole time. Ok, he is playing someone who is traumatized and it is true that such people can be challenged in terms of showing emotion… so he should have won the Oscar for best traumatized-no-affect actor.
Tim Burton, director of some great movies such as beetle juice (1988), batman (1989), who can forget edward scissorhands (1990), the animated the night before christmas (1993), the funny mars attacks (1996), and the smart big fish (2003). sweeney todd sure contains his signature of noir, or gore, but lacks in terms of acting, in terms of plot, and in terms of the words that come out of their mouths.