Saturday, December 22, 2007

Movies: Sweeny Todd

I’m very picky about my musicals, and even MORE picky about my movie musicals. But Sweeny Todd’s always been a point of curiosity for me, and I have a soft spot for Tim Burton and an even softer spot for Johnny Depp, so I figured it only right that I go out and see it in the theater. And I have to say that I was growing very uneasy during the opening credits sequence. I’m sure it was supposed to set the tone as dark and bloody, but I was growing bored about a minute into it: not a good sign. Thankfully the movie really picked up, though, and I was surprised at how good it was considering how much they cut out. Turning a 3+ hour production into a 2 hour movie is no small feat, but Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is an effective, chilling, mesmerizing movie.

Tim Burton developed a really great visual style for this movie: obviously the tone is overwhelmingly black, but the moments in the movie where bright colours are utilized are very stylized and effective as well. And it’s also very gory, which might put some people off but is entirely appropriate for a musical about a serial-killing barber. Johnny Depp comes off as a kind of punk-rock Sweeny, which fits very well with the style. I was a little leery about Helena Bonham Carter, as I am whith any of Tim Burton’s “muses” show up prominently in a movie, but she was alternately creepy and adorable as Mrs. Lovett, she of the worst pies in London. But the standout performance was Ed Sanders as the young Toby: an amazing set of pipes and just perfect for the role, almost better at times than Depp.

As impressive as the visuals were, there were times that it was almost too black, when the humour fell a little flat. I thought that they could have played some parts with a little more tongue-in-cheek – “Try The Priest” in particular should have been a bit more playful – and then get down into the real blood and guts of the piece, so to speak, in the second half. But that’s a minor quibble considering how polished and exciting the overall product was. Recommended if you can handle fountains of blood AND movie musicals.

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