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Jan 6, 2008

Fletch's Film Review: Sweeney Todd

Just in case you didn't get enough of Severus Snape, Peter Pettigrew and Beatrice the Strange Trix Rabbit, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter and the guy that played Peter Pettigrew are reunited in Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd. I guess bad things happen when every halfway known British actor ends up with a role in the Harry Potter series - you can't help but have a gang of them in every film set in London.

(By the way, Timothy Spall is the guy that plays Peter Pettigrew. Just in case you thought I was slacking.)

Anyway, Sweeney Todd. From the moment the credits start, you already feel like you're watching the sequel to Sleepy Hollow, with some of the roles combined and some singing and dancing thrown in just for the hell of it. Not that this is a bad thing, it's just hard to miss. Outside of a few scenes, everything is not just grey, but grrrrrreeeeyy. Though Burton is well-liked and respected by many (myself included), maybe it's time to stop telegraphing emotion via the color palette. At least the screen doesn't turn red when someone gets mad or blue when they're sad. But it's not outside of the realm of possibility.

The story is a juicy one - revenge at its most pure, with a naive barber losing his wife and child to a twisted, evil judge (Rickman), then being sent away to prison, adding insult to his injury. He returns with a single purpose - find the judge, kill him and get his daughter (now grown) back. Along the way, he finds that his home is being lived in by a kindred spirit (Bonham Carter) who is more than willing to help him achieve his goals.

The casting is excellent across the board, though I had some initial doubts when Sacha Baron Cohen was onscreen sounding a lot like Borat. However, that trepidation wore off and I ended up wishing he had a larger role. Newcomer Ed Sanders steals just about every scene he's in, playing an orphan named Toby who at first works as an assistant to Cohen's Signor Pirelli, only to later cling to Carter's Mrs. Lovett like Kirsten Dunst did to Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire. In fact, you could probably draw a few more parallels between the Lestat/Louis/Claudia relationship and the Sweeney/Lovett/Toby one, if you felt so inclined.

Dandy as the story and casting are, what bugged me the whole time was this: for a movie drawn from a famous Broadway musical, why is the music so...blah? It's easily the least interesting thing going on - not an ideal thing for a, you know, musical. And though Depp, Carter, Cohen and the rest surely aren't singers by trade, the fault doesn't lie with them - they do a fine job with what little they're given. I would have preferred they started belting out some recycled Phantom of the Opera tunes than the ho-hum tunes they were stuck with.

Finally, though I haven't seen the original musical, and though I don't want to give away the ending, let's just say that a few relationships are left unattended to, when they surely could have been given a line or two to close some gaps. This was probably done on purpose, but I still didn't like it. And that was my enduring image of the film.

Fletch's Film Rating:

"You seem a decent fellow. I hate to kill you."

6 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Sweeney Todd"

Sheamus the... said...

I like the new look over at LAMBS...

I hated the first half of Sweeney but couldn thelp but love the second half. They cancel each other out I guess to be a pretty good movie...or at least an average one.

Sheamus the... said...

Hey man...we need to do another LAMB event.

Fletch said...

What'd ya have in mind?

joen05 said...

I wanna see Sweeney Todd. But I don't think my gf wants to. :-(

soundtrackgeek said...

Yes yes you get it! The music! They had Burton, they had Depp, but where was Elfman? I got the soundtrack to this, but I only listened to it once, ok, maybe twice in hope of getting something good. There was something, but overall, a disappointment. I will probably watch the movie when it's on TV just because it's Depp and Burton.

Robb said...

I'm glad you liked the movie, but I have to disagree about the music. Granted, the score is cut to pieces, so perhaps loses some of its appeal for first time listeners. And yeah, it isn't a pop score like Hairspray or even Dreamgirls. But overall, the Broadway version is one of my favorite Broadway scores ever. Helena Bonham Carter just can't sing. Like, at all.