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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



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

"There was a barber and his wife..."
5 stars

To say that the splatter-goth musical 'Sweeney Todd' is an ideal match for Tim Burton’s manic-depressive sensibility would be to make the understatement of the movie year.

In a way, this director’s entire darkly gaudy career has been working up to an adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s nastily sportive Broadway hit. (The material has been around since the 1840s, and a Sweeney Todd movie with Tod Slaughter predated Sondheim’s work by 43 years.) As in his other goth-horror Johnny Depp vehicle Sleepy Hollow, Burton drains the screen of all color except blood red. The effect in both films is like Nosferatu produced by Hammer, and someday they will make a dazzling creature double feature — except that in Sleepy Hollow Depp pursues the creature, and here he is one.

His hair teased into a mad-scientist Beethoven helmet with a shock of white, Depp’s Sweeney Todd enters the picture seething with contempt and fury, and he almost never lets up. Character subtlety has never been Burton’s strong point; fortunately, the material doesn’t demand it. It’s a gory cartoon with operatic flourishes and a lineage that includes Titus Andronicus, EC Comics, and Andy Milligan’s Bloodthirsty Butchers. It’s a revenge play, with Sweeney plotting to give very close shaves to the men who took his wife and daughter away and locked him up, while Helena Bonham Carter’s Mrs. Lovett, who bakes meat pies, proposes a pragmatic way to dispose of the bodies.

Bonham Carter and Depp, surly goth twins at the fetid prom of London, approach Sweeney Todd as the live-action sequel to their previous film for Burton, Corpse Bride. Depp stands stock still, gnashing his rotted teeth (at times he resembles Christopher Walken’s Max Schreck in Burton’s Batman Returns), while Bonham Carter whirls around plotting and fantasizing about the picnic-filled marriage she and Sweeney will have. They’re in decent voice, though Sondheim’s silverstreak lyrics are so densely packed they’re difficult for these lesser-trained singers to navigate. Other actors — like Alan Rickman as the evil Judge Turpin, Timothy Spall as Turpin’s obsequious henchman, and Sacha Baron Cohen as the boastful scam artist Pirelli — get easier songs and more room to breathe and show off their pipes.

The pumping, hissing blood is, as Burton hoped, more cathartic than disgusting. It’s theatrical blood, Hammer blood, and for the sexless Sweeney these gushers are the only hot release he can have. Eros, meet Thanatos. Romance swirls all around Sweeney — Turpin’s lust for Sweeney’s teenage daughter Johanna, whom he has adopted as his “ward”; a young sailor yearning for Johanna; Mrs. Lovett’s unrequited (and hardly noticed) love for Sweeney — but all he’s interested in is the dark romance of vengeance. (He refers to his silver razors as his friends.) Sweeney Todd, in whatever incarnation, has been one of the oddest stories ever to capture the mass public fancy, and Burton and odd go together like cake and ice cream. He’s never been afraid of the grand gesture (or the Grand Guignol gesture); there’s a long, computer-enhanced pullback from Sweeney brandishing his razor through the towers and tenements of London, and it’s a breathtaker, a tour through a macabre toybox.

It’s a powerfully weird movie for a studio to position as its big holiday release. But it fulfills a promise I haven’t felt Burton has delivered on before, not this completely. He needs a simple story, and big, flamboyant moments to offset the wretched pinpricks of despair, and loud music, and a vehicle that finds both poetry and humor in horror, and Johnny Depp. Well, Burton’s checklist is full this time. Sweeney Todd, which went before cameras last February, was Burton’s late Christmas gift to himself, and now it’s his Christmas gift to those of us who’ve been his loyal fans for the last twenty years.

This black cauldron of a film, with its spider-blood visual scheme, may be the purest example of imagemaking the movies have given us in far too long.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15980&reviewer=416
originally posted: 12/23/07 23:43:53
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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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