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9 reviews, 36 user ratings

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

"Blood is the unofficial co-star"
4 stars

Kabuki-lite makeup, ornate art direction, a fantastical spin on ultraviolence. Who else could’ve directed “Sweeney Todd” but Tim Burton? The conditioner-challenged master of the macabre lunges forward with cold steel in “Sweeney Todd,” Burton’s gurgling take on Stephen Sondheim’s enduring 1979 Broadway curiosity.

Returning to London after years of imprisonment, Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) is ready to slaughter Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman), the man who stole his wife and daughter away. Heading back to his old barber haunt, Todd opens his shop again, with the help of meat pie baker Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter). To bide his time before committing multiple acts of vengeance, Todd elects to murder his customers, slicing their throats and sending them down to the basement where Mrs. Lovett grinds them into food. It’s a mad plan that inches Todd closer to Turpin, but a revelation that Todd’s grown daughter Johanna (Jayne Wisener) is caught up in the passions of a young sailor (Jamie Campbell Bower), leads Todd to ultimate sacrifice.

After their unforgettable collaborations on films such as “Edward Scissorhands,” “Sleepy Hollow” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” it’s safe to assume that Johnny Depp and Tim Burton share the same taste in psychosis. How else could one explain a musical that works better as a psychological profile than as an exhibition of singing?

“Sweeney” is a famously twisted tale, popping up its head in many incarnations, but none as deliciously baroque as Burton’s film. With Deep at his side, the director is given carte blanche to imagine Sweeney’s world of pulse-racing vengeance and comical cannibalism, channeling his forlorn art student instincts to smooth out the material for the big screen. This is far from Burton’s finest directorial work, but it is his most restrained in terms of composition and tempo. The filmmaker is playing the musical close to his chest, perhaps to appease the notoriously finicky Sondheim, but more likely to capture audience attention; ensuring that they will be able to sit through a film promoted as Johnny Depp singing his heart out, but is really a love letter to seething, sadistic bloodletting.

Oh my, does the wet red ever flow in this picture. Gushing out of Sweeney’s victims like a runaway fire hose, blood is the unofficial co-star of the movie, acting as the orgasmic release of anger for the titular character. It’s a polarizing aesthetic choice for Burton: either audiences will lap up the exaggerated Grand Guignol theatrics with a nervous smile or they’ll cower in their seats hoping to switch their tickets to the next available showing of “Enchanted.” Burton wins either way. “Sweeney” is absurdly violent, yet it’s hardly sleazy or dreary, embracing mass murder with a wink and Burton masterfully rides the tonal changes.

As with any musical, there’s a personal chemistry issue with the songs. While lusciously composed and performed by the cast (even Depp, who gives it the rock star atta boy), the selections range from memorable and plush to formless and dull. Thankfully, the moments with Depp and Bonham Carter trading verses tend to be both plentiful and engaging, pedaling the film up to a captivating speed.

To wrestle the film down to a two-hour running time, cuts were made to the musical (notably the “God, That’s Good!” number), and the gaps are perceptible from the midsection. The human meat pie centerpiece of the story – the taboo stamp of the musical during its many runs – has been compacted to just a few movements; a greatly disappointing change to place higher emphasis on Sweeney’s suffering. With the insanity pared down, the film’s second half drags its feet, losing a fluid sense of pacing that’s necessary to rouse the finale to a fever pitch.

“Sweeney Todd” is Burton’s most overstated picture, and his first pass at a Hollywood musical is a daring experiment in directorial control. This is a coal-stained, blood-spurting, red carpet of rage, and a brave embellishment of the harsh tones that informed the Broadway incarnation. “Sweeney Todd” plays to Burton’s strengths, and it’s gratifying to watch a musical predicated more on singing than combustible pop choreography. However, it’s a strong brew of gothic horror that could’ve used a little more illumination to find a proper footing.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15980&reviewer=404
originally posted: 12/21/07 11:06:46
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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
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  21-Dec-2007 (R)
  DVD: 01-Apr-2008



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