Saturday, December 22, 2007

Movie Review: Sweeney Todd

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Tim Burton, R, 1hr 56min

So, I took the opportunity to have some me-time before the big holiday. So, I headed to the movies. I was so excited to see this movie...that I broke the plan to see it with my husband. There I go...battle shopping traffic...get carded while buying my some over-buttered popcorn....sit through way too many commercials and previews (mostly horror movies and Mamma Mia!)...and a long music video....finally it starts.

The music starts and distinct Sweeney whistle....but I'm ok with that. Eliminating the chorus of the cast allows the film to seem less-musically (although the songs were seemlessly evoked throughout the film). Opening credits are great...very excited.

This revenge story takes place in a dark and dirty London...on Fleet Street. Sweeney was deceptively imprisoned by the local judge so that he could have his pretty wife. Fast forward 15 years...Sweeney is back, wife is gone, their daughter is in the charge of the judge. Sweeney is mad and he's not going to take it anymore.

Acting as a barber, which he was in his previous life, he waits for his opportunity to take vengeance on the judge and be reunited with his family. Well, things take some bad and bloody turns. Helping with the bloody part is Mrs. Lovett, a local baker and apparent owner of Sweeney's former home and shop. She develops an innovative way to help Sweeney. It is filled with villains and it takes a lot of thought to understand who is really the worst (but that's another discussion) That's the plot in a nutshell and without giving much away.

This is one of my favorite musicals...I almost obsess over it. I really liked the adaptation. It took some things out, of course, but I understand why and it worked (however, the lovers' duet "Kiss Me" was sorely missed). It also added some dialogue to beef up the plot (since they took out the long songs and I guess viewers need everything explained to them). The visual aspects were amazing...the sets, cinematography, editing....great. It basically looks like an old movie...almost in black and white.

The casting was a bit off, however. I love Johnny Depp...normally! And he actually did an ok job as Sweeney. His singing isn't Broadway...more rock-n-roll but it worked. What bothered me was that he had the same expression on his face the whole movie. Helena Bonham-Carter was very poorly cast. She can't sing, she's too pretty, she has no comedic skills. What a waste of a part. Alan Rickman was good...can't sing (which ruined one of the most beautiful songs ever written, "Pretty Women"). Timothy Spall was as creepy as ever. The problem in these last three that they are playing the same roles in the same way we have already seen them in (Have you seen Harry Potter? Fight Club? Corpse Bride?). Sacha Baron Cohen does a great job in his character cameo (you should tuck next time). The three new comers playing Toby, Anthony, and Johanna were great. Strong, strong singing and solid acting.

Overall, it was an acceptable adaptation for this masterpiece by Stephen Sondheim....except for one thing...BLOOD! It was excessive, unnecessary, and literally-nauseating. It was ridiculous. I couldn't watch it and it pretty much ruined what would have been a pretty good movie. If Burton was going for the old, horror movie genre, as he said in interviews, there would have been NO blood. And you just didn't need it. It took it from a great story with singing to a gore-fest (and I like horror movies). One particular death is so violent...I just waited with my head down. I've seen this story many don't need the gore. I would say just close your eyes and listen the music...but I don't know if I recommend that either...head to the bathroom.

Overall, it is a good scary is an ok musical. I wish that Burton would have either taken the story and made a good horror flick OR taken the musical and made a great film. It will introduce great music to those who would otherwise not but it will also expose those musical fans to some yuck (I'm talking to you, Mom!). And it is unfortunate that the singing (which can be fabulous even despite the morbid subject matter) was not strong enough (hey, the stage version is coming to Chicago in the spring). And I missed the comedy (yes, there is some...just listen). Don't buy the movie soundtrack...get the original with Angela Landsbury!

If you love Sondheim(this is his masterpiece) or Sweeney or horror movies...check it out...just be prepared.

1 comment:

Melissa Niksic said...

We enjoyed the film. I thought Johnny Depp was excellent, but Helena Bonham Carter was a major disappointment (which shocked me, since I usually adore her...they should have cast me as Mrs. Lovett instead!). The blood didn't bother me that much because it is a Tim Burton film, so I was prepared for the gore (although I figured he'd use the purple "Batman blood" from his previous films...I guess not). Also, I was sad that they didn't sing "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd," but at least the music was used throughout the film.