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Sweeney Todd

Tim Burton's 2007 film adaptation of the musical starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.

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Attend the tale of Sweeny To . . . nevermind, don't

  • Sep 28, 2008
Pros: Mood, setting


Casting, choice of song editing, everything except mood.

The Bottom Line: Don't attend this tale of Sweeny Todd, it is 2 hours spent staring at your belly button--assuming your belly button can kind of sing.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.


Several months ago, I wrote a review of the play Equus--not the movie version, but the printed play. In the review, I specifically state that anyone reading the review avoid the movie at all costs because it would ruin the experience should they have the opportunity to see the play. Tim Burton’s adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeny Todd is very similar. See the play (even the one released decades ago), avoid the movie.

The story is relatively well known. A barber, Benjamin Barker had a beautiful wife and daughter. A judge is envious and wants the wife and child. On trumped up charges, the judge sends Barker to Australia, still in the middle 1800s a penal colony. Barker escapes and returns to London as Sweeny Todd. He takes up his old digs and his old job above a failing meat pie shop. An accident of recognition allows a former student the ability to blackmail his former employer. From here what is among them most (if not the most) dark comedy I’ve run across.

At least that is the story.

The only things Burton gets right is the mood and setting. Burton is a master of the craft of exaggerated griminess and exaggerated opulence (he seems not to know any middle ground). In this case, the way he takes the nasty back streets of mid 19th century London, including costumes is beautiful in its consistency even if it does look like the whole area had been dumped into coal coke. Apart from that and 2 actors Jamie Campbell Bower (Anthony) and Ed Sanders (Toby), there is zero reason to watch this film.

Burton and Johnny Depp (Sweeny) have a very long relationship. It was poorly displayed here. First, it doesn’t make the slightest sense that Sweeny is a wispy tenor. He has an anger that is driven from fifteen years of separation and an almost immeasurable desire for revenge. Instead what we get is a wispy barely-singer with the worst accent I’ve heard and Depp has done British accents before. He was simply not believable. Helena Bonham Carter was slightly more convincing as the scheming Mrs. Lovett, but she has to limit her talents so she doesn’t show up Mr. Depp.

Along with these sub-par performances are what, to me, is worse: playing to type. Timothy Sprall (Beadle Bailey) is the sort of simpering Igor character who plays up his unattractiveness with all the subtlety of Kabuki character. The same is true of Sacha Baron Cohen who just plays over-the-top no matter what script is in front of him. And, unfortunately, Alan Rickman—who has an enormous range—falls on the most stereotypical moments he has as Snape in the Harry Potter films.

And, worst of all is that the songs were short—seriously short. It was more like a bad “musical” adaptation where the songs were merely jingles. If you take on a masterpiece, there must be a sense of its gravity. Sondheim is an extremely clever writer—his style and abilities outstrip Cole Porter (Sondheim’s musicals have been successful on the whole along with the individual songs—few remember any of Porters’s musicals, just some of the songs). For lack of anything else, it seems like the songs got in the way of a gory story. The problem is that, while Sweeny isVERY dark, is not necessarily all that gory when taken as a whole.
The demon barber of Fleet Street was really more of a minor nuisance in a black back alley.


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More Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber... reviews
review by . January 04, 2013
Can You Tell This Is A Tim Burton Film?
This movie, like all Tim Burton movies, screams TIM BURTON. That being said, it's an enjoyable musical adaptation. Of course, "Johanna" is the stand-out musical number, being hauntingly and achingly sad. Sacha Baron Cohen is memorable and Helena Bonham Carter is quite bearable (to be fair, much of my ire towards her comes from her being Burton's wife). There are some striking visual shots (as expected) and lavishly grotesque scenes which make the lack of character depth and plot …
review by . May 23, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****    Tim Burton gives me all that I look for in a musical feature film with "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street", an adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim hit Broadway show of the same name. If you've followed up on the filmmaker's works to this day, then you'll know that he's usually not afraid to go to dark places, but I don't think he's ever purposely corned himself in a dark alley and proceeded to inflict severe and perverse emotionally deconstructive …
review by . December 12, 2010
In all fairness this is probably the worst version of Sweeney Todd out there, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's bad. I actually do like this movie, but it seems that the only reason Tim Burton decided to adapt it is that it's a dark musical and he has already laid claim to anything with even an iota of macabre. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love that, but it just makes me think that he amped up the blood and guts and downplayed the original beloved characters whereas the …
review by . May 02, 2011
I decided to rewatch this movie and after doing so, I have deduced that I was being unfair, comparing this to the stage show. Of course the stage show is brilliant, but this is a splendid work in its own right and arguably the best thing Tim Burton has done since Beetlejuice. There are some things that this movie does better than the show, and some things that the show does better than the movie, but I shall get on about that later in the review. This musical is my favourite musical of all time, …
Quick Tip by . September 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Strong performances all around in both singing and acting. Even though I thought Bonham-Carter was a bit too young to play Mrs. Lovett when the cast was announced, she pulled off this role wonderfully. Depp totally got into this role as he usually does. Like he does all of his roles, he played Sweeny Todd as a three dimensional character, who did horrible things, yet you could feel sympathetic to what he went through.
Quick Tip by . August 11, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
this movie was weird to say the least. when i first heard that it was a musical i was totally uninterested, but then when i saw it i was pleasantly suprised, it was really good!
Quick Tip by . July 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Depp shows his wide range of talents. He shows that he can both act and sing in this movie. Burton's direction is also at its best.
Quick Tip by . July 10, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A quite amazing musical/drama revenge movie. It had great potentilal and rose to the challenge. A fantastic cast.
Quick Tip by . July 09, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
very......interesting, and strange movie. for a musical not that bad though.
Quick Tip by . July 06, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Loved this movie! I went and bought the original afterwards and I must say, they did a great job with this movie! It is entertaining and the effects are amazing!
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Paul Savage ()
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About this movie


2007 musical thriller and the film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's stage musical starring Johnny Depp

Starring Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman
Directed by Tim Burton
Writers: John Logan, Steven Sondheim (Musicals)

After years of rumors, it turns out that Tim Burton was the perfect visionary to filmSweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Stephen Sondheim's Broadway masterpiece, and the result is a macabre and moving musical movie as enthralling as anything Burton has ever done. The show's mix of gothic horror, Grand Guignol,verydark humor, and witty and beautiful music never was the stuff of traditional musical comedy, but it's a powerful work, and perhaps the richest of the late 20th century. In the movie, Burton's frequent collaborator, Johnny Depp, plays Todd, a wronged man whose lust for revenge drives him to murder (an 19th-century legend who has been traced to a real-life barber). Helena Bonham Carter, another Burton mainstay, is Mrs. Lovett, the barber's partner-in-unspeakable-crime. It's no surprise that Depp is an excellent choice to convey Todd's brooding intensity and volcanic rage, but he can also sing a score that is so challenging it has often played in opera houses (though not with the same style as the Broadway original, Len Cariou, and he occasionally lapses into pop style). Bonham Carter is small of voice and lacks the humor of the original Broadway Lovett, Angela Lansbury, but ...
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Director: Tim Burton
Genre: Music, Musical
Release Date: December 21, 2007
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: April 1, 2008
Runtime: 1hr 56min (116 Minutes)
Studio: Dreamworks PIctures, Warner Bros Pictures
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