Monday, February 4, 2008

Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: Review

People, this is a major must-see film! It's first and foremost a musical, with essentially all the characters singing throughout, but it's also horrific and hilarious. If cheerful musicals aren't your thing, never fear – this is Sweeney Todd – a very darkly comic and tragic tale.
Sweeney Todd is a faithful but unique adaptation of the award-winning and much beloved stage musical by Stephen Sondheim, with few cuts and changes. Contrary to some musicals where the songs aren't necessary to the basic plot, the songs tell the tale in this one. Sweeney Todd is a throat-slashing barber (which is actually a true story!) obsessed with revenge after a man of power took everything from him. He returns to London and cooks up a very disturbing plot for revenge with his diabolical accomplice Mrs. Lovett.
Tim Burton is at his best, artfully meshing the powerful and beautiful music with stunning visuals. In this movie, he joins Johnny Depp, his partner in film and partner in real life, Helena Bonham Carter to successfully create a much more intimate atmosphere than can be achieved on stage. Although none of the actors are professional singers, each character is portrayed very effectively with the acting and singing combined.
The cinematography, set designs, costumes, and makeup portray the Gothic side of London. The horrific moments where Sweeney kills his victims are graphically brutal and gory, and yet hilarious for no apparent reason.
Burton does not skimp on the blood, and it even becomes intentionally over-the-top. But it does not seem gratuitous in that it is the reality of the story, and it also has a metaphorical role. The violence is disturbing, but you can cover your eyes if you're squeamish (it's only a few scenes).
Personally, I found the film as a fresh contrast to the usual chirpy, cabaret Broadway adaptations like Hairspray. And can Johnny Depp sing? OH GOD YES! Not only does he sing the songs well, he stayed 100% in character throughout.
He plays Sweeney with such a subdued feeling and yet come out as an intense character. Carter's voice is a bit thin, but she creates a very adorable and lovable Mrs. Lovett. She is a wonderfully colorful and humorous contrast to the dark and gloomy Sweeney. The show also introduces the voices of Alan Rickman (Severus Snape from Harry Potter) and Timothy Spall (Peter Pattigrew in Harry Potter).
What I think the musical was trying to say was, "What would you do when someone who took everything from you was now at your mercy?" Sweeney was overwhelmed by vengeance for 15 years, he forgot what was most important to him, his wife and child. In the end, he got his revenge, but he lost so much more. All this leads up to a bloody and tragic finale which I will not spoil.
If you are a musical hater, Sweeney Todd may be too much to take in as 75% of the dialog is sung. But if your in for some Burton-Depp magic, the film will leave you in utter stunned-silence, I guarantee you that.

RATING: 7/10

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