With its rivers of blood, this adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical isn’t for the faint of heart–or stomach. But thanks to the black humor, impeccable production design, and gorgeous music, Tim Burton fans will want to sing after seeing SWEENEY TODD. For his sixth collaboration with the director, Johnny Depp stars as Benjamin Barker aka Sweeney Todd, a barber falsely imprisoned by Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman). After leaving prison, he comes back to Victorian London to find his wife poisoned and his daughter held captive. As he plots his revenge, Sweeney joins forces with Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), and while he preys on clients asking for a shave, his new partner turns the bodies into baked goods. But the judge still lives, and the razor-wielding madman wants his vengeance. Though it’s a musical, SWEENEY TODD has more in common with Italian horror films such as SUSPIRIA than it does with CHICAGO. Even the horror-musical hybrid LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS pales in comparison to the darkness found here. Previous Burton-Depp pairings have veered toward the macabre, but this reaches a glorious new level. Though they’ve made excellent films apart, their partnership has produced some of their best work, including EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, ED WOOD, and now SWEENEY TODD. Depp demonstrates his rock-band roots as the antihero of the title with another amazing performance, while Bonham Carter is both hilarious and heartbreaking as the eager Mrs. Lovett. But credit also belongs to production designer Dante Ferretti, director of photography Dariusz Wolski, and, of course, Burton, for showing a sooty London that is just as dark as the film’s subject matter. Source composer Sondheim should also be recognized for the haunting songs that threaten to stick in viewers’ heads, but the film as a whole also deserves to be remembered for its beauty and brutality.
Johnny Depp is one of my favorite actors and Tim Burton one of my favorite directors. That’s partly why watching the movie was a lot like watching my favorite football team, the painfully bad Buffalo Bills. The movie kept going on and I hoped and prayed it was going to get better. But it never did. No matter what twist, song, character, plot twist, slit neck, nothing could make it better. I watched it and literally started dozing off on numerous occasions. I’d awake, rewind and watch again and still couldn’t muster enough interest to keep awake. Sweeney Todd is boring.
Somewhere out there the Sondheim musical must have had a better life than in this cinematic release–I can only assume having never seen Sweeney Todd as a musical. My assumption is that the musical must have been good otherwise why would anyone make it into a movie? Perhaps the biggest problem comes from the unthinkable–Johnny Depp. Depp is usually what holds a movie together but the fact that he is a crap singer made me cringe every time he sang a note. The only moments of fun comes from the bodies sliding out of Depp’s chair onto their heads into the chamber below.
Tim Burton has leaned on Depp movie after movie and Depp has never let him down–until now. But this is Burton’s mistake, not Depp’s. Depp can’t sing. Bonham Carter can’t sing either. Burton could have worked with Depp and Carter if he would have taken the musical element out. I hate musicals, but can respect a good one, and would have preferred that this came without the musical elements.
Watch the trailer: