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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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Meat pies for everyone.

  • May 23, 2012
**** 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 torture upon himself, which he certainly does here. Burton usually brings together good sets, good costumes, good sets, and a strong cast for his movies; although alas, he has finally outdone himself. He's gone over-the-top and beyond, which is just what the guy needed, as it turns out. Maybe he realized that, maybe he didn't. Maybe it was accidental; maybe it wasn't. Nevertheless, "Sweeney Todd" sees the artist getting down with his bad self and producing one of his best films yet. I've lived through the good and the bad times that make up the modern Tim Burton legacy, and this could be considered my personal award for surviving the bad (although I'm not sure if Burton can do "bad" at all) and sticking with the man for all the good that he's brought to the cinematic world as it stands.

The story involves a vengeful barber - very skilled with the razor - named Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp) who returns to his home in 19th Century London after about fifteen years of seafaring, brought on forcefully by banishment at the hands of the notorious and powerful Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman), who kicked Mr. Barker out of the city once he had set his eyes upon the latter's wife and falling in love with the great beauty. Barker knows not of what happened during his absence. But a return to the titular Fleet Street does him good; first stopping into the gloomy meat parlor owned by the emotionally lifeless Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), who has always upheld romantic fantasies relating to Barker and his tragic tale of loss. She fills him in (apparently, his wife has died and their child is now all grown up but still living with the Judge), he takes up a new name to cover up his old one (Sweeney Todd is the name), and then he's open for business yet again as a barber.

But the demons that linger in Mr. Todd's past do not intent on letting him rest his mind and body for a while. The first thing on his mind is: find the Judge and his servant (Timothy Spall), and kill them both. But he soon learns that restlessness - brought on by a chance encounter with an old acquaintance that now goes by the name of Adolfo Pirelli (Sacha Baron Cohen) - will get him nowhere, and that he'll have to work his way up in the business to get his chance at the throat of the Judge. Indeed, the first victim of Mr. Todd's rage is Pirelli himself; although his murder provides the parlor with a new member to the team, a young boy named Toby (Ed Sanders). With three people now properly working efficiently and Mr. Todd now slaying all who walk into his barber shop, a new business has begun; Mrs. Lovett's famous meat pies are back, but this time, with a secret ingredient: human flesh! Meanwhile, a friend of Todd's named Anthony (Jamie Campbell Bower) tries to court Judge Turpin's ward/Mr. Todd's daughter.

When it comes to musicals, there are essentially but two options; in the sense that a musical can either suck you into the rhythm and the passion, or it can bore you to death and annoy you at the same time. Burton claims to have been a fan of Sondheim's musical since he first saw it for himself, so even though it's not original material, it's still a highly personal project; not just another studio job waiting for a gifted sleepwalker to take the reins. I also love the lyrics that Sondheim wrote for the story, since I believe they really give the material its shining light; and it would seem that these two men saw eye-to-eye on the narrative stylistics that were to be employed. Songs like "The Worst Pies in London" and "Have a Little Priest" especially are exceptional examples of Sondheim's morbid sense of humor, which Burton also happens to share (as proven by most of his earlier efforts). So this was a match made in heaven, and once again, Burton is able to take a high-concept production and bring it to new heights with his big ol' ego, which is filled to the brim with unlimited vision and intellect.

Neither Depp nor Carter had experience as avid singers before their respective roles in this particular film, which makes it all the more shocking that they do so darned well. Here we live in a world where there are so, so many "professionals" in the field of theatre and performance art; yet these two single-handedly do better than the most of them and without any proper, prolonged background with such things. Overall, it appears that audiences reacted in different ways to the vocal performances of the cast members for the film's score (which was composed by Danny Elfman); although I have nothing but positive things to say not only about Depp but also about everyone else. Sacha Baron Cohen has a great scene with his "The Contest" musical number, and Alan Rickman steps into the spotlight with "Pretty Women", a beautiful duet with Depp. There's also a really great sequence known as "By the Sea", in which Mrs. Lovett envisions a comically over-dramatized yet fantastical future with Mr. Todd and Toby, by the you-know-what.

Truth be told, the music of the film matches so flawlessly with Burton's visualization of the time period. Everything is dark, dim, grim, and filthy; and every character is left scarred by the times, Mrs. Lovett especially. The film takes on a very Gothic visual style - one of the finest I've seen in years - which makes it a sort of return to Burton's "Sleepy Hollow" days, when he was free-spirited and extra enthusiastic about all of his productions. Lately, he's just been the latter, but without much control over what he wants to do. He knows exactly what he wants and what we want out of "Sweeney Todd", although that may or may not be quite what we expect. It is a bloody, grotesque, emotionally impacting love letter to the awkward but whimsical mish-mash of the music and the macabre. Throats will be slit, heads will roll, brains will splatter on the pavement, and you'll take it all in the form of a metaphorical meat pie that is scrumptious not only internally but externally as well. As Mrs. Lovett once said: "tuck in".

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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 . 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!
review by . May 05, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
This may be a bold statement but I believe that Burton may have crafted his best since Ed Wood when he made Sweeney Todd. Believe me when I say those were pretty big shoes to fill but The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is just a fantastic work of art from beginning to finish. Taking his cure from the ghastly legend of Sweeney Todd & retaining all of the original Sondheim soundtrack music, Tim Burton has proven himself once again to be nothing less than a genuis in the grand halls of cinema.   …
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Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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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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