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Overall Rating
4

Awesome44.44%
Worth A Look: 26.67%
Just Average: 14.44%
Pretty Crappy: 13.33%
Sucks: 1.11%

9 reviews, 36 user ratings


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

"Far duller than Sweeney's razors."
2 stars

It's an odd thing to say in reference to a musical about a serial killer featuring cannabilism, but "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" seems to make the safe, predictable choice at almost every junction, and the movie winds up somehow feeling bland as a result. Which I'm pretty sure is the one thing this movie shouldn't be.

Tim Burton directs; it's tough to think of a director who would fit the material better, but maybe he winds up being a little too on the nose. Once you've got Burton on board, the visuals suddenly seem predictable - stark blacks and whites during some sequences, clashing but muted stripes during the more colorful bits, overhead views of a city that proudly looks like exaggeratedly pointy dollhouses. Oh, and he's given Johnny Depp a goofy haircut, and bucked no trends by casting Helena Bonham Carter as a walking, talking Living Dead Doll. There's bugs and grime and silliness disguised as nastiness. It's all exactly what you'd expect from Tim Burton making this movie and thus none of it is shocking at all.

And shouldn't a story like this feel at least a little transgressive? Even if you know the play by heart and have seen every film the director has made, shouldn't there be at least a little thrill of inappropriate excitement as Sweeney (Depp) takes his first victim, or Mrs. Lovett (Carter) proposes disposing of the bodies by baking them into pies? That's strangely absent, though; too much of the story just seems to be going through the motions. The film never bothers to explain what crime Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) framed Benjamin Barker for in hopes of stealing his wife, leading to Barker's return as Sweeney Todd. That the sailor who rescued Sweeney, Anthony Hope (Jamie Campbell Bower) should fall in love with Barker's daughter Johanna (Jayne Wisener), whom Turpin has been raising as his own, turns out to be a flat coincidence, not an ironic twist of fate. It's nothing more than convenient.

Frankly, I wasn't much impressed with it as a musical. I understand that several songs were removed from the play and sung dialog has been replaced with spoken lines. What's left is overwhelmingly somber, with the livelier songs almost incomprehensible by their overlapping lines. The singing is serviceable, although none of the performances are especially memorable in and of themselves. Though nobody in the cast is especially known for their singing ability, they all do fairly well.

Story-wise, the script is a bit of a mess, too. The young lovers seem terribly bland compared to the monsters their meant to compliment, and the end is frustrating. A situation that's been the source of immediate tension basically gets shoved to the side and forgotten, and the big revelation in the end has no real build-up, happening just because London is apparently a very, very small town where everybody knows and is connected to each other in ironic ways.

They do just about what you'd expect for the rest of their performances, although none keeps their character interesting throughout the entire movie. Depp does a nice job in his first song of showing the rage hiding just beneath the surface, but for much of the rest of the movie Sweeney seems more eccentric than mad. The moments toward the end when Carter's Lovett finds herself torn between her group's amorality and her desire for some sort of family life are well-done, but she hasn't been interesting enough to earn our sympathy. Timothy Spall and Sacha Baron Cohen play smaller roles, but exactly the ones you'd want them playing. Jayne Wisener and Jamie Campbell Bower do fine, although they tend to get outshone by the grander, more familiar co-stars. Alan Rickman is perhaps the most disappointing; he's one of the greatest screen villains of all time, but between not being able to establish Judge Turpin's bona fides as a baddie early on and the flat performance, what could be a grand, deservedly operatic enmity between Turpin and Todd is just not nearly as vital as it needs to be.

It's a funny thing. Here's a film and a concept that casts aside subtlety and yet still seems to be playing it safe - when that's the last thing it should be.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15980&reviewer=371
originally posted: 01/07/08 00:05:44
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User Comments

2/13/17 Louise Enjoyable gothic horror piece - love the songs! 4 stars
3/28/16 Aj wales Bad movie dressed up. 2 stars
8/18/09 Jon B Definitely a masterpiece by Tim Burton. 5 stars
3/07/09 jcanthony A slasher film dressed up as an art film musical. The story has no value. 2 stars
2/17/09 Sally Sundeen I was disappointed by this one...but i still liked it. Love Johnny Depp! 3 stars
1/09/09 lima beautiful songs and great actors, especially depp and rickman 5 stars
11/11/08 Michael M Not a musical like it, but what detracted from it was the singing. Could have been better. 3 stars
7/03/08 mike very different. didn't like it at first but loved it in the end 5 stars
6/11/08 Jayson Could have been better. Depp was a hoot. 3 stars
6/08/08 AnnieG Everyone marked for death will die. Musical horror tragedy - what a concept! 4 stars
5/24/08 mark madsen Kinda back and forth on this one 3 stars
4/13/08 Colleen Cousineau If it wasn't a musical...............It might have been ok. 3 stars
4/05/08 smrtpants enough of depp with scissors already! 3 stars
4/03/08 bloody mustache Huzzah! Burten and Depp weave their magic yet again, another shave please? 4 stars
3/29/08 M IF they just didnt sing, Depp/Helena great! 3 stars
3/24/08 Noodle Truly amazing songs. Haunting and beautiful 5 stars
3/06/08 Millie Maelstrom Implausible and overrated, plus Helena Bonham Carter is an ugly witch. 2 stars
3/05/08 Louise A gothic blood-soaked masterpiece! No one makes films quite like Burton! 5 stars
2/17/08 SamanthaP I really liked it, the blood gushing was awesome, and Johnny was freaking hot! 5 stars
1/27/08 Mike Nearly unwatchable - only gets 2 stars for production value. Hard to follow, bland singing. 2 stars
1/25/08 proper amateur film critic a musical with performers who cant sing 2 stars
1/22/08 john 'Once' , 'Across the Universe' light years better..this was almost terrible.worst Depp ever 2 stars
1/15/08 Kishaun Completely boring, cliched, annoying and overrated movie. 1 stars
1/13/08 Sully Loved the flick, but I don't think I'll get a hair cut this week.... 5 stars
1/13/08 Luciie i LOVED it thanks :/ 5 stars
1/04/08 Kelisha Thanks for the props on Steve. He truly is God. 4 stars
1/03/08 Catt Burton and co. did an excellent job!! Loved this artistic movie! 5 stars
12/27/07 Quigley Excellent. Burton, Depp and Carter all do amazing work; great music. Not to be missed. 5 stars
12/26/07 BestPies Sondheim is God, Burton's respect for the music is wonderful. 5 stars
12/26/07 carlos G Mostly true to the theatre version, and even Sondheim gave it his blessing! 5 stars
12/25/07 PDJ Best Movie of 2007 5 stars
12/24/07 Cindy I loved everything about this movie. I plan to see it again. 5 stars
12/23/07 Missy H. Disturbing, diabolical, yet still delicious fun! I'll take seconds, please! 5 stars
12/22/07 Ole Man Bourbon Heh I was going to say the same thing: I really liked it, didn't love it. 4 stars
12/21/07 Keystra Williams I LIKED it, but I wanted to LOVE it. 4 stars
12/21/07 Bonny I don't think the gore & violence was off-putting. Loved the movie & music. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  21-Dec-2007 (R)
  DVD: 01-Apr-2008

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