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Sweeney Todd


Beautiful to look at but strangely hollow, Tim Burton's 2007 film adaption of SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET is a bloody, hyper-stylized, gorgeous movie.

Johnny Depp stars as Benjamin Barker, a talented young barber with a beautiful wife and baby daughter. The couple wanders among the 19th century London streets, full of happiness.

When evil Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) decides he wants Barker's wife for himself, he jails Benjamin on a bogus charge for 15 years and takes the wife and baby for himself.

Flash forward 15 years to a weathered, tortured and angry Barker sailing back into London, ready for a bloodbath of revenge against those that have wronged him.

Taking the name Sweeney Todd, he sets up a lethal barbershop on the top floor of a meat pie shop that might be offering the worst menu of all time thanks to its demented owner Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter).

When Todd decides the best way to get to the judge is to slit the throats of everyone in his way, the film turns into a Grand Guignol theatre of the absurd with buckets of blood splattering the windows, Todd and us.

The bodies shoot down a trap door where Mrs. Lovett is anxiously awaiting fresh ingredients for her meat pies.

The less you know about the secondary characters the better going in, but suffice to say that Todd/Barker's past has a nasty way of surfacing and doubling back on him.

Sacha Baron Cohen brings some fun as an arrogant Italian dentist, Timothy Spall is repulsively great as Beadle, the Judge's right hand sleaze and Jayne Wisener is strong as Todd's daughter, now grown up and trying to escape the clutches of the Judge.

Depp is very good as Todd, doing all his own singing more than adequately and bringing passion and hate to the role in equal measure.

I've never been a big fan of Helena Bonham Carter in any films she's been cast in within her husband Burton's classic films. She is a weak link here, with difficult to understand lyrics and her same quirky style she brings to virtually every role. She seems the same in EVERY movie to me.

The production design, art direction and photography are first rate and stunning to watch. Orchestrations on the sung-through score are terrific.

The music and lyrics are by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler. Sondheim isn't a favorite. I admire some of his work, especially "Company" and "West Side Story" but I'd sooner get wisdom teeth pulled without meds than ever sit through the time sinkhole called "Into The Woods" again. Painful.

I saw Sweeney Todd on Broadway with Michael Cerveris in the title role and it was terrific. Cerveris is a legend. We saw him in "Fun Home" on Broadway last year and he's amazing.

But seeing the film adaption again, there are very few songs I care if I ever hear again. I know they're smart, clever and challenging, but for me, they just dont live outside the performance itself.

The conclusion of the story is heartbreaking and leaves you as dark as the foreboding London setting. It's powerful.

Sweeney Todd is spectacular to look at and Tim Burton fills every frame with his unique visuals, but its emotionally hollow and I found myself checking out the visual effects and settings while I was supposed to be caring about this sordid lot.

Like Mrs Lovett's pies, the film's fine to look at on the outside, but inside the story, its dark, disgusting and I definitely am not hungry for more.

Sweeney never quite sings and gets a C.

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