Review: Sweeney Todd

Sweeney ToddSaw Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd last night, featuring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter:
IMDB: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Rotten Tomatoes: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
I haven’t reviewed many movies lately, because I haven’t seen many movies lately. Well, some lame TV movies, the really good Ratatouille, and The Devil Wears Prada a couple of nights ago on DVD. So it was really nice to be able to go out with friends and watch a grown-up movie in a theater. Unfortunately, my wife and friends didn’t care so much for Sweeney Todd due to all the “gratuitous” blood; I loved it! I thought the nearly campy-level and comedicly over-the-top blood in the movie was necessary and matched perfectly with the tone and style of the movie.

I was very impressed with Depp and his singing, considering he doesn’t sing, and especially his characterization. A little one-sided and shallow, but with brilliant moments of touching emotion and depth. But then, I’m in love with Johnny Depp and he can do no wrong in my mind. Alan Rickman was fantastic as always as well! Helena Bonham Carter was also fantastic, but she usually is. She’s an odd one in my mind. One moment she’s very unattractive, the next she’s gorgeous. (Not in this movie, just in general.) One moment she seems annoying, the next she’s fascinating. In Sweeney Todd, she’s playing a murder complicit dreg of a pie maker, disheveled, but still strangely attractive and even sexy. OK, maybe it’s me who’s “an odd one.” 🙂 The entire ensemble is perfect. But Tim Burton has always had this amazing ability to make the odd and unusual heart-felt and touching. The young and innocent daughter of Todd, played by Jayne Wisener, is also a bit unusually looking yet stunning, and her young and innocent love interest, Jamie Campbell Bower, is likewise unusual, but has a sort of rock star charisma. The kid who ends up unwittingly helping Todd and Mrs. Lovett the pie maker, has some hilarious reactions during an early scene where Todd is messing with his snake oil barker performance. The ending which involves the kid, is simply sad, creepy, tragic, just, heart-breaking. OK, it’s not so simple an ending.

I have a B.A. in theatre, but I have to admit I’d never seen Sweeney Todd performed before. But then, I’m not really a big musical fan; I prefer risky, thought-provoking, gutsy and gritty theatre. I hate popular mainstays like A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Annie and, crap. Give me David Mamet, Harold Pinter, Sam Shepard any day. And even those guys are a bit close to too conventional for me. But that being said, I also have to admit that I like more musicals, once I see them, than I like to admit. I admit. Admittedly. Into The Woods, another musical by Steven Sondheim, writer of Sweeney Todd, is one of my favorites. Hmm, but Sondheim makes gutsy and thoughtful musicals. Unlike Andrew Lloyd Webber who makes pure sap-filled drek. Anyway, I was familiar with the story, and I knew a little bit of the music, but all in all I walked into the movie with no preconceived notions and expectations based on previous stagings of the play. Which I’m certainly glad for! I was able to watch it fresh, taking it all in, and enjoying the ride Burton and cast took me on. (Well, except for much of the last half after my cell phone fell from my pocket and I couldn’t get it, so half my mind was on worrying about my phone going off under my seat since I’d forgotten to turn it off. Fortunately it didn’t and I got it back at the end. But I know I missed some of the 3rd act subtlety and drama, like when Carter’s Mrs. Lovett has a touching, sad, and frightening scene with the kid who is beginning to suspect something about Mr. Todd.

I am SO glad that I don’t live in one of those areas I hear about where the movie audience yells at the screen and consistently laughs in the wrong places and are constantly talking. I mean, I saw it in the worst way possible: in a multiplex frequented by teens and college students in a SW Missouri town, so you’d expect bad and ignorant behavior. But I have never had a bad audience experience seeing a movie (except for Medicine Man when the woman behind me constantly ruined coming events with her explaining to her friend what to pay attention to, but that was just one woman,) and has usually been favorable (South Park was a stupid movie made hilarious because of the audience experience)–but this was a musical of all things, in a filled to capacity theater, I expected the worst. …and was amazed to find the audience receptive! There was a little laughing at the wrong places, but forgivable. No one talked, I sensed no general surprise or dislike of the music (after all, the trailers don’t really point up it IS a musical,) and people seemed to enjoy it in general and remained politely subdued. I think I’d have to leave a theater that had people talking at the screen and cheering and commenting as I’ve read about on IMDB forums.

Well, enough babbling; I really enjoyed the movie. I feel terrible that the people I went with didn’t much like it, since I kind of steered us in the direction of Sweeney Todd. (We were actually originally going to see No Country For Old Men, which I really want to see, but I don’t think they realize it’s at least as if not more violent and gruesome, and made worse by its realism. I mean, one of the characters is a psychopath who relentlessly terrorizes and kills his victims with a compressed-air cattle slaughtering gun.) I was getting kind of worried about Tim Burton (Planet of the Apes was OK at best and not at all his level of entertaining, and Depp’s Carol Channing impersonation in Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was literally painful to watch. (Even though it ironically just reinforces for me that Depp is absolutely an amazing actor. I hated his Wonka, but when put into his oeuvre of characters through the years, just goes to show he can do anything, and be convincing at it!)