a critiQal film review Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: Benjamin Parker (Depp), unjustly sent to prison, vows revenge, not only for that cruel punishment, but for the devastating consequences of what happened to his wife and daughter. When he returns, he takes on a new name, Sweeney Todd, reopens his barber shop, and becomes the Demon Barber of Fleet Street who "shaved the heads of gentlemen who never thereafter were heard from again."

Reviewed
647 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 14s)

When I first heard about Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, I was excited. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp teaming up again? Great!

Then I heard it was a musical, and I was a bit taken aback. Would a singing Depp really be something worth watching, or had Burton and Depp finally falling off the edge they’ve been teetering on for so long?

It’s almost scary the way Depp can portray his characters. Whether he’s Captain Jack Black in or Willy Wonka in , he makes the character his own.

While the afore-mentioned films showcase the lighter side of Depp’s performances, Sweeney Todd presents viewers with his darker side – and it’s just as compelling. While his looks are more maniacal than ever (thanks to a black shot through with white mop of a hairstyle and a bleak complexion), it’s the haunted look in his eyes that will give the audience the most shivers.

Helena Bonham Carter (who has always seemed to be part vampire) uses her pasty complexion to her advantage in Sweeney Todd. Even looking pale next to the pasty-faced Depp, Carter looks alone are a good match for Depp. Toss in the downright insanity of her character, and the two make a terrific evil duo – yet she still manages to convey her romantic notions toward Depp in a way that makes them seem heartfelt. It’s a strange dichotomy, and one Carter pulls off easily.

Alan Rickman, who has gotten a lot of attention as Snape in the recent Harry Potter films, loses his greasy appearance – switching the hair grease for a greasiness of character. Rickman, known for playing bad guys even before Harry Potter gives viewers a bad guy they will love to hate.

Sacha Baron Cohen, who’s overrated performances as Borat and Ali G have garnered him a lot of undeserved attention, again doesn’t impress in Sweeney Todd. His ridiculous accent and pompous flair are highly annoying, and it’s a good thing he’s only around for a couple of scenes.

With it’s plot full of murder and cannibalism, Sweeney Todd isn’t what most would expect when they hear the term “musical.” Just as was able to toss the musical on it’s ear with it’s renditions of hit songs, Sweeney Todd expands the musical into the horror genre.

While it’s a bit surprising to hear that Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Alan Rickman can actually carry a tune, the songs actually help the film along, rather than become a nuisance (like so many recent Disney flicks). The dark mood of the songs fit in perfectly with the mood of the film, and add to the drama rather than distracting viewers from it.

True, the special effects aren’t exactly superb, but the viewer gets a sense they aren’t supposed to be. Like most Tim Burton films, Sweeney Todd is a highly stylized film, and it’s tomato sauce-like blood and rather silly-looking blood spurts help to add a sense of comedy to a rather dark film. Burton seems to be trying to elicit a laugh rather than heighten tension, and it’s a nice change of pace from the normal horror film.

But then Sweeney Todd isn’t even close to a typical horror film. Sure it’s got the horror film plot, but the odd special effects and the copious amounts of singing throughout the film are a new twist on the horror theme.

With standout performances from Depp and Carter, and Rickman giving the viewers another villain they will love to hate, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp score again with Sweeney Todd.

While Sweeney Todd may be ushering in a new flurry of offbeat musical films, chances are none of the pretenders will be able to live up to the high expectations set by Sweeney Todd. Especially since it’s likely both Burton and Depp won’t be at the wheel of any of those.

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