Monday, February 11, 2008

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street

Year: 2007
Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen

I'm not a big fan of musicals. I remembered how excruciating it was sitting through Dreamgirls last year, watching them break into song every five minutes. I mean, just how much overdramatic singing from Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson can one stomach?

But hey, this time it's Tim Burton. Back with his favourite actor, Johnny Depp. And when those two join forces, you can't go wrong. Yeah, it's still a typical musical with songs coming in after every breath. But thankfully, I found it quite charming.

Sweeney Todd is based on the hit Broadway musical about the demon barber of Fleet Street, who would slit the throats of his customers and send them down to his fellow tenant Mrs Lovett, so she can make pies with them. Sweeney Todd is a man of vengeance, though he wasn't a long time ago. 15 years ago, he was a happy man called Benjamin Barker who had a beautiful wife and daughter, until the evil Judge Turpin, who wanted Barker's wife for himself, convicted him for a crime he didn't commit and sent him away.

And now, Barker's back, with a new name and a thirst for payback. He finds his old friend, Mrs Lovett still running her pie shop under his old premises. She helps him set up his place and plan his revenge against Turpin. Through a young boy named Anthony, Todd learns that his daughter is alive and being held captive by Turpin, so he and Mrs Lovett scheme to get Turpin over to his barber shop....

Burton is well known for making his movies dark and gothic, and stylish in look and mood. He achieves that yet again, from the opening credit sequence, reminiscent of his other film Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, all the way to the end. By giving London a very grim outlook, and most of the people in it unkempt, he successfully captures the right tone for the film. I'd say his dark style has never been more fitting than this.

Johnny Depp once again gives a splendid performance as the lead character. Imagine if you will, Jack Sparrow minus the charm and cocky smirk he keeps flashing, and you will find one very dark character indeed. But more than that, Depp manages to give Todd a sense of tragicness, as you will find yourself feeling sorry for his plight, and the need for him to seek revenge. Helena Bonham Carter is almost equally charming as Mrs Lovett. She is a perfect foil to Depp, though her corpse-like image throughout the film was distracting. Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall lend able support as Turpin and Turpin's right hand man, Beadle Bamford respectively. A special mention goes out to Sacha Baron Cohen, who plays a rival barber. It's reminiscent of his character in Talladega Nights, quite hilarious I must say.

But this film being a musical, can the cast sing? Oh yes, they can! What do you know, Depp can sing. Well, okay, honestly Depp wasn't born to sing, he can carry a tune, but just enough for this film. His screen presence makes it possible for him to play Todd so well. Carter isn't that good a singer, but it works nonetheless. It was surprising for me to see Rickman, Spall and Cohen sing too. I don't think you'll ever see them do that on film again.

All in all, Sweeney Todd is an enjoyable musical. But it is quite a violent one though. Not for the kids, I assure you. (4/5)


trowa said...

Tim Burton ROCKS!

Best film since Sleepy Hollow and Big Fish. What were ur fave tim burton films, mate?

Aaron said...

Charlie & The Chocolate Factory. Sleepy Hollow was good. Batman isn't too bad either.


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