Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Okay--who in their right mind would bring a two-year-old to a movie subtitled The Demon Barber of Fleet Street? The movie is rated R, it's by Tim Burton, and has Johnny Depp. At the very least you should have an inkling that it's going to be dark.

Yes, someone did bring their toddler and ended up taking her out just about every time the music rose to a crescendo and blood spattered the screen.

Just for the record: this isn't The Sound of Music.

DS#2 saw the movie with some of his friends. He enjoyed it, except for the music--he didn't realize Sweeney Todd is a musical. However, his biggest objection to the music is that the songs all sounded the same, just with different words. Part of it might be that Johnny Depp and Alan Rickman don't have a lot of range in their singing voices. But Jamie Campbell Bower, who plays Anthony Hope, and Jayne Wisener, as Johanna, are excellent. Helena Bonham Carter is Mrs. Lovett, who loves Sweeney Todd in her own limited way, and who owns "the worst meat pie shop in London."

Ed Sanders, who plays Toby, a young orphan Mrs. Lovett takes in, is a true find. I hope he finds work.

Hubs and I enjoyed it, although Hubs was expecting it to be more of a comedy. The ending is the only one it could have, but it's not happy. But it's not Old Yeller sad, either. The movie is shot in muted tones, which makes the red of the blood all the more startling and surprising.

I did find the fact that three of main actors, Rickman, Bonham Carter, and Timothy Spall, are also characters in the Harry Potter movies. (Spall plays Peter Pettigrew.) Rickman and Spall have several scenes together which just reminded me of Snape and Pettigrew. C'mon--aren't there other actors in England?

Johnny Depp does mad extremely well. I believed he was pushed over the edge of sanity and yet could remain capable of thinking logically. Rickman has done subtle evil so often it must be nearly second nature. (It must have been quite a relief to play a snotty British actor playing an coolly logical alien on Galaxy Quest.) Helen Bonham Carter walks the edge of madness and sanity, truth and lies, love and obsession. More than anything she wants a middle-class life: a home, a husband, a child. Mr. Todd is the closest chance she has of getting that and deep inside her, she knows he can't give normality to her. Toby is her surrogate child, but he forces her to see the reality she doesn't want to see and make a decision she doesn't want to make.

Several of the plot "twists" were obvious to both Hubs and I, in part because there are few resolutions for tragedies.

On the way home, Hubs and I debated whether or not DD#2 should see it and if she would enjoy it. (She's 14.) He didn't think so; I think she would, in part because, thanks to her older sibs, she's had a lot of exposure to dark comedy and to Tim Burton. I will admit several of the scenes made me jump even though I knew what was coming.

Can I recommend this movie? A qualified "Yes." Like the Stephen Sondheim musical it's based on, this won't be everyone's cuppa. IMDb classifies Sweeney Todd under "Thriller" and "Crime" as well as "Musical." I suppose those will do. I knew the general outlines of the story, so I was prepared and I enjoyed it. Hubs didn't know any of the storyline, but he's watched enough Tim Burton/Johnny Depp movies to have an inkling this wasn't going to be a light and happy holiday movie. He enjoyed it and is curious to see it as a stage play with actors who can sing.

On the March Hare Scale: 4 out of 5 Golden Tickets

crossposted at The Mad Tea Party


Darwin said...

I basically enjoyed Sweeney Todd and certainly thought it was very well done, but (maybe because bloody revenge musicals is not one of my top genres) found it un-engaging at a certain level.

I kept found myself wanting to compare it to Kill Bill, another revenge drama soaked in blood about regaining/avenging lost chances at family life -- and between the two I felt like Kill Bill had something positive to say while Sweeney Todd didn't.

On the other hand, I suppose one can question how positive your feelings towards revenge _ought_ to be...

Anonymous said...

I noticed that the main characters seem to have a certain "sinful theme" to them.

For example:

Mrs. Lovett = Envy

Sweeney Todd = Revenge/Murder

Beetle = Pride

The Judge = Lust/ vanity

Did anyone catch that?

Anywho, the movie was great. I(18) saw it with my brother (16) and he can't stop quoting lines from the film.

I personally, really enjoy the music and discussing the plot with friends and family members.

I'd like to see Tim Burton bring other musicals to the big screen such as "Into the Woods" or "Wicked".

Thanks for the review.