Friday, August 19, 2016

Movie Review: "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (2007)

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Movie"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
Director: Tim Burton
Year: 2007
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 56 minutes

Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp) returns to his Fleet Street home under the alias of Sweeney Todd. He hopes to enact a plan to get revenge on Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman), the man who stole his family from him and shoved him in a prison cell despite never having committed a crime.

"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" is Tim Burton's adaptation of Steven Sodheim's Broadway horror musical of the same name. It stars Johnny Depp as the titular Sweeney Todd, a man tormented by his past, mentally broken, and hell bent on revenge. Depp was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in this film and took home the Golden Globe for best actor in a musical or comedy. We really enjoy his performance, and though the film is very Tim Burton-esque, it is a much more dark-natured story than either of them have dealt with in the past. Joining Depp is Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett, a widow who sells meat pies in the shop downstairs from where Sweeney Todd lived his life with his lovely wife and child as Benjamin Barker before it was all taken from him by the lecherous Judge Turpin, played by the utterly fantastic Alan Rickman. We don't think anyone could play a villain quite like the late, great Rickman could. He brings a certain imposing, dominant, ominous presence that is rarely matched on screen. Todd is bound and determined to get revenge and will stop at nothing to obtain it. Depp is able to dramatically convey the sorrow, the anger, and the resentment he feels towards both Judge Turpin and life without his family after being locked away in prison and having his existence permanently altered. Until he gets the proper opportunity to enact his retaliation, Todd goes on a murdering spree, slitting the throats of the unwitting patrons of his barbershop, who are then dumped down a slide to the basement and ground up for Mrs. Lovett's meat pies. It's all very grotesque and macabre, but strangely satisfying in some small way when we are allowed to watch these outcasts of society pulling off this very horrid and elaborate scheme right under the noses of the townspeople without so much as a moment's notice from most citizens.

We really appreciate all of the aspects of Tim Burton's vision that come together to create one hell of a dark musical. Though Burton's greatness may have slipped a little bit in recent years, here, he is able to bring his unique vision to the table in order to create a beautiful looking 1840's London, complete with his Burton-esque flair of wicked costumes, juxtaposition of color, and allure in the morbid. Everything in "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" has a grey, drab color wash with the exception of the blood and gore, which is bright red and bursts forth from the necks of Todd's victims like a shower spray. This is a truly a beautiful film visually, and in recognition of its efforts, took home an Oscar for best art direction. Another thing that stands out about "Sweeney Todd" is the music. We are huge fans of the songs adapted from Sondheim's play and re-purposed in this film, though others might not be because of their dark themes and penchant for repulsive lyrics, but hey, look at the context of the story. Though Depp and Carter do a pretty good job when it comes to their singing, some of the best musical performances come from members of the supporting cast, namely Jamie Campbell Bower's "Johanna," and Ed Sanders' "Pirelli's Miracle Elixir" and "Not While I'm Around." Johnny Depp's opening number "No Place Like London" sets the stage for what's to come in a dark, dreary fashion, and Helena Bonham Carter's "The Worst Pies in London" represents the shocking conditions of her pie shop as bugs crawl from her tasty treats, only to be smashed underneath her rolling pin, which is promptly used again without being wiped off as she sings her song in a rather gleeful manner. Some of the songs don't fit, but most of them feel like they belong in this story.

All in all, "Sweeney Todd" will please those who don't care about the sickening nature of its songs, its characters, and its subject as a whole. We love Tim Burton's directorial style and think he was the perfect choice for this project. Make sure you watch with the lights off.

My Rating: 8.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 8.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 86%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!
One year ago, we were watching:

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