Sweeney Todd as filmed by Tim Burton plays like the demented flipside to Moulin Rouge!, sharing the stylised sets, the flashy zooms, the bigger-than-life acting and the overwhelming melodrama. This is not a bad thing. The story: a barber takes revenge on the judge who
sabotaged his marriage, locked him up and took his daughter. He hooks up with a woman who is down on her luck and runs a meat-pie shop. As the movie is based on a Stephen Sondheim musical, lots of singing ensues, while the blood starts spraying and the bodies start piling up. The highlight is a musical number in which the couple goes gloriously around the bend, coming up with a cunning recycling scheme for their victims. Less engaging are the numbers and scenes involving the misplaced daughter and her doe-eyed suitor: insanity and evil-doing proves itself to be much more interesting than innocence and virtue.
The cast is great. Sacha Baron Cohen (aka ‘that Borat guy’) catches a lot of laughs for his silly performance as Signor Adolfo Pirelli, bending the tone of the movie, but stopping just short of breaking it. Alan Rickman pulls off another sneering ‘Snape’ performance with glee. Timothy Spall and Helena Bonham Carter make the Harry Potter reunion complete, Carter looking very much like her Bellatrix Lestrange character from Potter world. She does a great job of providing the movie with some much needed lightness and heart as the dangerously loopy Mrs. Lovett. Johnny Depp is intense and single-minded but manages to keep Sweeney interesting and borderline sympathetic. I don’t know the plot of the original musical, so I can’t say if anything was changed, but the ending as it stands seems fitting. With this much bloody murder going on, it can only end in tears.
There is also a twist near the end that I saw coming a mile away, but not so the two people I was with, so judge for yourself if it is obvious or very clever. The moral of the story is: kids, don’t let vengeance ruin your life. Also: don’t get shaved by strangers and only eat meat at places you trust.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, 2007, 116 min. USA/UK. Director: Tim Burton. Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman.