Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Review written on: March 17th, 2008

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Review

The story of Sweeney Todd sounds like something out of the weird news section of the Sunday paper. A barber opens a shop above a pie shop, starts killing clients in preparation for revenge on the man that wrongfully banished him from the country, and the lady running the pie shop bakes the dead clients into pies. It is, however, a musical and a dark comedy. This version stars Johnny Depp as Sweeney and Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett, purveyor of meat pies.

I?m a big fan of Johnny Depp, so going into the movie I was biased. The movie starts with exposition showing Depp as Benjamin Barker, a happy man with a wife and infant daughter. The jealous Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) tries Barker for an unknown crime and banishes him to Australia. He then consoles the wife, and adopts the daughter as his charge. We see Barker return a dark and broken man. He meets Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter) and introduces himself as Sweeney Todd.

One thing that bothered me is that we never learn the meaning of the change. Obviously the reason for the change is to avoid recognition, but it?s such an odd choice of pseudonym. Todd is a common enough last name, but were people really named Sweeney? Wouldn?t John have been an easier choice?

The movie follows Todd while he tries to crush Turpin. Most of the dialogue is delivered in song, but if you?ve seen a musical or two it probably won?t bother you. Depp?s vocals are surprisingly good. I say surprisingly not because I didn?t think Johnny Depp could learn to sing (actually I think he could learn to fly if a role requested it of him), but because so many theater geeks I know actually agree with me. Helena Bonham Carter plays her role well, and her singing, while not necessarily Broadway caliber, is great in the film. Alan Rickman was a genius bit of casting as the slimy Judge Turpin, but then again Rickman is excellent in everything he does.

The movie is entertaining, which is all we?re really looking for in a movie. Stephen Sondheim?s score is lovely and director Tim Burton?s signature visual ?look? fits perfectly with the darkness of the film. While it?s very funny at times, it does get extremely violent towards the end. So violent, in fact, that blood from a gushing throat wound actually hits the camera lens. The ending is a tightly orchestrated masterpiece ? absolutely my favorite part of the film. I definitely recommend watching this, if you can deal with the musical aspect of it and can stomach the blood. It?s a must-see, and a must-watch-again.


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