14 January 2008

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

I went to see this with my sister when she was in town. I wanted to see this, and my wife didn’t, so if it weren’t for the fact that my sister was in town and wanted to see it, I would have ended up there alone, like many other films I see. We both really wanted to see the latest Depp/Burton masterpiece. A fact worth noting is that I was not even aware of this musical until seeing Jersey Girl a few years back. Even then, I thought it was something made up for the movie.

To sum it all up, I was disappointed. I didn’t get it. The whole movie is a tale of revenge, love, and betrayal. I had it all figured out long before the end. I don’t know if that was part of the movie, trying to figure it our or not. I just do not understand why everyone was obsessed with this movie. I still do not understand why Johnny Depp won the Golden Globe for his role. It was nothing new for him to play a weird deranged character. Helena Bonham Carter was excellent in her role of Mrs. Lovett. Sacha Baron Cohen was sadly under played. He seemed a bit out of his element in this film. Alan Rickman was on his game of creepy Snape-guy. And who can forget typecast Timothy Spall playing henchman Beadle Bamford.

The movie opens with Tim Burton using his trademark opening sequence with the camera following something while the cast and crew names are shown. It was a callback to his Batman says when we went around the mantle of the bat. In this one, we follow blood through, over, and around various objects that make appearances later in the film. Opening credits are a lost art. James Bond films still use them, thank goodness. We then get our first look at Sweeney Todd and Anthony Hup, played by newcomer Jaime Campbell Bower. The first song number was the best. The rest of them seemed out of place. They sing a song about London and how it is dirty but home. Sweeney Todd then goes straight to Fleet Street. This is where the horror story of Benjamin Barker and his family. Barker’s wife was coveted by the evil Judge Turpin, Rickman, and he had him arrested on bogus charges and exiled from England. His wife and daughter, Johanna, were then taken in by Turpin. His wife took a poison, and Johanna was taken in by Turpin. Barker has now returned as Todd. He sets up shop as a barber at his old place that is over a bakery run by Mrs. Lovett.

As the story unfolds, Hup falls for Johanna and he and Todd scheme to free her from the grasp of Turpin. Todd sets up his barber chair to dump bodies of his victims into the cellar for Lovett to cook into her meat pies. Cohen plays Signor Adolfo Pirelli a rival barber. The rest of the film revolves around Todd exacting his revenge on Turpin, Hup’s love for Johanna, and Lovett’s love for Todd.

Amidst the betrayal, loyalty, love, hate, and revenge, the musical aspect is really were I got lost. The story was fantastic. The acting was great, though some was better and some out of place. The direction was phenomenal, too. It was the songs that were off. They were more like dialogue lines that were sung instead of actual songs. I was not excepting song and dance numbers like West Side Story or Hairspray, but I was not expecting people to be talking and then sing a line, talk a line, sing a line, talk a line. It was odd. This is the only aspect of the film that got on my nerves. I am fairly certain that I would have enjoyed the movie more if the singing was eliminated all together. Verdict: Worth the watch once. I might rent it again to see what a second viewing does for me, but a purchase is not on the horizon as of right now. I would, however, like to see a stage production of this for comparison.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree on most of what you have said. Some of the songs were fantastic, and as I now have access to the soundtrack , they are fun to listen to. However, I felt when I was watching the film that the songs were misplaced. I am a huge fan of musicals including Guys and Dolls, Grease, West Side Story, and even contemporary Moulin Rouge! The musical numbers of Sweeney Todd seemed awkward and almost forced at times. The plot and the direction were fantastic, but marketing the film as a musical, I was expecting more. I will have to watch it again, and see if there was something I missed the first time around.