Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street **

Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter
Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen
Jamie Campbell Bower, Jayne Wisener, Ed Sanders

Based on Stephen Sondheim's beloved musical, Tim Burton does a great job adapting it into cinematic form, but in the process has lost some of the urgency and majesty of the source material.
Johnny Depp plays Benjamin Barker, a barber who is sent to prison by Judge Turpin (Rickman) so he can keep his wife and daughter.
Fifteen years later, Barker, who has now taken the name of Sweeney Todd, returns to London and sets shop above Mrs. Lovett's (Bonham Carter) pie store, where he begins to device his revenge.
But as Mrs. Lovett reminds him the best part about this would be to "plan the plan" and while Sweeney sharpens his knives (who he calls his friends), Mrs. Lovett finds herself content with the company of this man who she loves.
On the other side of town, a young sailor (Campbell Bower) has become infatuated with Johanna (Wisener), Sweeney's daughter who is being held captive by Judge Turpin. Luckily for Sweeney, he becomes involved in a plan to rescue her, but more than having his daughter back his mind is set in revenge and after a failed attempt to murder Judge Turpin, he decides that now he will take revenge on everyone.
Just like that and the film's flaws begin with this rushed decision; if it wasn't for the fact that the music becomes louder, Burton sets the visuals and Depp raises his voice we wouldn't know that a big twist has occurred.
More than character development, this event just pushes the plot forward, because soon Sweeney is slashing people's throats so that Mrs. Lovett can make pies out of the deceased.
Depp does fine work as Sweeney, but whoever thinks he is proving his versatility is blinded by the fact that now he sings. Someone should give the man a role that doesn't require for him to be covered in makeup and act weird.
His lackluster performance is the film's biggest detractor. Perhaps he shouldn't have been loud and morbid, but he is nothing. You can not detect a single emotion in Depp's Todd. And it wouldn't be fair to say that to be soul-less was the intention, because you should at least feel the rage that inspires his revenge and turns him mad.
The best thing in the film, along with the gothic visuals, might be Bonham Carter's performance.
You never know what on Earth this woman sees in Sweeney, but the actress, whose singing voice is a whispery tease, brings the only life the film has.
While she might seem like "The Corpse Bride" come to life, you miss her when she's not onscreen. Her scenes with little Toby (Sanders), who develops a protective crush on her, are the only times when the film achieves any evidence of real emotion.
As grotesque and morbid as it all may sound, the monochromatic color scheme, the dreariness of the settings and the overtly Tim Burton-ness of the film can't cover the dark satire contained in Sondheim's work.
When the film reaches its complex final twist, where there should be tears and gasps, you feel a void which is covered by buckets of fake blood that fill the spaces where emotions should've been.
It should feel appropriate that a film so filled with death had been extracted of all its life.
Somehow it just doesn't.


Michael Parsons said...

The film left the same taste in my mouth. Depp is so charismatic, so why was he not in this, the role that should have made him. Totally undeserving of that nomination

Woodstock said...

the more i see burton/depp movies the more convinced i get that i don't like burton style and depp annoys the hell out of me.