Sunday, January 6, 2008

Sweeney Todd: Movie Review

Sweeney Todd
CS Rating: Don't Miss (unless you hate musicals)

Filled with style, Tim Burton's ambitious take on a musical legend pays off in every scene. I got nervous when I heard that Burton was doing this film. I got even more nervous when I heard that he was keeping it a musical with Depp and cast signing the Broadway tunes. Given that Tim's movies (when he doesn't write them, i.e. Planet of the Apes) just come off as weak, style over substance pieces of goth art I expected this to suck.

Much to my surprise, the movie succeeded on all fronts - in fact it's one of the more entertaining movies I've seen this year. Johnny Depp is fantastic as Sweeney Todd and the rest of the cast fill out the scenes perfectly. Helena Bonham Carter oozes her quirky madness, Alan Rickman is pure evil as Judge Turpin and even Sacha Baron Cohen handles his part well.

The trailer for the film does it's best to disguise this film as a non-musical but this is a straight up, full on Broadway musical in film form. Rarely is a line in the movie not sung. It completely works if you like that sort of thing. A friend of mine couldn't get past 'watching dudes sing to each other' enough to enjoy the movie so be warned.

Based on Stephen Sondheim's stage classic, I felt it was very faithful adaptation but it's been a LONG time since I've seen Sweeney on stage. Theater purists will no doubt be scuffed that certain songs like "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" got the razor.

The story goes that Benjamin Barker, betrayed by Judge Turbin returns to London to seek revenge. Teaming up with pie maker Mrs. Lovett Benjamin becomes Sweeney Todd and begins to exact his revenge for the loss of his wife on the unsuspecting city. Lovett, in dire need of pie sales, grinds up the bodies of Sweeney's victims and serves them in her meat pies.

Based on a 19th century 'legend' of sorts Sweeney was considered a serial killer and may or may not have actually existed.

From the Sweeney Todd Wikipedia Entry:
"Todd's first appearance could have been in a British penny dreadful called The People's Periodical, in issue 7, dated November 21, 1846. The story in which he appeared was titled "The String of Pearls: A Romance," and was written by Thomas Peckett Prest,[6] who created several other gruesome villains. He tended to base his horror stories partly on truth, sometimes gaining inspiration from real crime reports in The Times."

Sweeney Todd has already garnered a Best Picture nomination at the Golden Globes and will no doubt stir up some Oscar noms later this year.

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