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"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street "
Movie review by: Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars
Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars
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“Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd.
His skin was pale and his eye was odd.
He shaved the faces of gentlemen
Who never thereafter were heard of again.
He trod a path that few have trod,
Did Sweeney Todd,
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”
Those lines, written by the great Stephen Sondheim to introduce the audience to his 1979 musical “Sweeney Todd,” are the beginning of one of the greatest productions in the history of musical theatre. Now, almost 30 years later, director Tim Burton has added his unique vision to Sondheim’s story and the results are just as spectacular.
London. Making the rounds of the city is Mr. Benjamin Barker, recently acclaimed the best barber in the city. Accompanying him is his beautiful wife, Lucy and their infant daughter, Johanna. Among the citizens noticing them is Judge Turpin, who longs for a woman as beautiful as Lucy. Taking matters into his own hands, the Judge has Benjamin arrested on false charges then sentences him to a lifetime in prison. To paraphrase Mel Brook’s, “It’s good to be the judge!”
Fifteen years pass. Sailing into London is a young man named Jamie (Anthony Hope). With Jamie is a man who was found adrift at sea. The man introduces himself as Sweeney Todd (Depp). When they part, Jamie happens by a window where the now teenage Johanna (Jayne Wisener) sits and contemplates the life she has as the ward of Judge Turpin (Rickman) . The judge notices Jamie noticing Johanna and has his flunky Beatle Bamford beat the judges wishes into Jamie. Jamie searches out Sweeney, who assures Jamie that true love will prevail. Sweeney decides to open a shop directly above a pie shop run by the widowed Mrs. Lovett (Carter). From here Sweeney hopes to gain revenge on those he felt wronged him.
Stop thinking! I can see the little wheels whirling in your head as such thoughts as “A Tim Burton musical?” and “Johnny Depp sings”move their way from your brain to your lips. Just tell yourself it IS a Tim Burton musical and that Mr. Depp sings beautifully and things should get better for you. Director Burton has kept the main tale alive and added his own touches to Sondheim’s already dark story. Even the opening credits, which feature a London rainstorm splattering against the windows accompanied by an occasional drop of crimson is Burton at his finest. As for the cast, Mr. Depp can indeed carry a tune. Though he didn’t provide the singing voice in his first starring role in “Crybaby,” Depp more than handles the score here, his voice inviting genuine comparison to David Bowie. As Mrs. Lovett, Carter too proves to be quite capable of handling both the dramatics and singing demanded of the role. That both performers were personally approved by Sondheim is certainly a true testament to their talents. The rest of the cast performs just as ably, with special attention being paid to Rickman. The passion in his voice when he sings about the women he longs for is quite evident, almost making you feel sorry for such an evil man. Even Sacha Baron Cohen, who provides some comic relief as a presumed Italian master barber, helps the music tell the story. The production values are top notch, be it a sunny London garden or the literally flowing fountains of blood that accompany Sweeney’s vengeful plot. Sondheim’s score is just as dramatic as I remember, and though some of the lyrics have changed, the story in song remains solid, particularly under the skillful baton of longtime Sondheim musical director Paul Gemignani.
“Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd!
He served a dark and a hungry god!
To seek revenge may lead to hell.
But everyone does it, if seldom as well
The Demon Barber of Fleet…
One of the years best films, musical or otherwise, on a scale of zero to four stars I give “Sweeney Todd”
This week's movie review of "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street " is ©2007 by Michael A. Smith. All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2007, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.