Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Reid, 31. January 2008, 21:20

Dir. Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helen Bonhan-Carter, etc.

I think Grace said this was OK. The more I think about the film, the more I feel like giving it a 3. But the film did manage to keep my attention and the look (that dark look that Burton is good at) was well-done. I’m go into more comments later. As to whether other idiots would like this, there are some subjective factors that are hard to determine, but I don’t think I could recommend this to any of the idiots.

The film is based on the Stephen Sondheim musical about a wrongly imprisioned barber that returns to seek revenge. It’s equal parts musical and equal parts horror film. I was very surprised by the amount of spilt blood and scenes of graphic violence (i.e. seeing throats slit and seeing bodies landing on their heads and crumpling to the ground). It felt gratuitious to me.

My feelings about this film can be summed up by saying I didn’t like the story or the characters. (That’ll do it.) I have a hard time imagining anyone really getting into the story or plot, particularly the way the story resolves itself. The revenge seems so anti-climatic; ditto what happens to Sweeney Todd. In a way, I didn’t really care for or sympathize with him, which took away any chance of me enjoying this as a tragedy. When I think about the characters are pretty one-dimensional.

The story also leaves the plight of two characters–Sweeney’s daughter and the boy who falls in love with her–unresolved. Sweeney’s meeting with her seems rather pointless, too. The dramatic arc suggests some resolution between the boy and the girl and Todd and the girl. I wonder if the film version is shorter or changed.

I also didn’t get into the music. (I had a really hard time understanding the lyrics in some of the songs, too.) There were some amusing numbers (like the song about how certain people will taste as meat pies) but, overall, the tunes didn’t instantly grab me stick with me. It’s not that the music was bad or the singing–I liked Depp’s singing (A.O. Scott described it having a rock n’ roll quality, and I agree) and everyone else was decent.

The look of the film was probably my favorite part–everything from the lighting to the gothic make-up and costumes and the dark set pieces. It’s typical Burton, and I thought it was well-done and well-suited for the film.

While watching the film, the thought occurred to me that Sondheim and whoever else made the musical made it on a dare that the story couldn’t be made into a successful musical–that’s how bad and unsuitable the story seems to me to be. If that’s the case, then, in that regard, I think the musical is a kind of victory; otherwise, I didn’t care for it.

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