Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sweeney Todd: Amusing and Macabre (Review)

Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Johnny Depp -Sweeney Todd
Helena Bonham Carter - Mrs. Lovett
Alan Rickman - Judge Turpin
Timothy Spall - Beadle Bamford
Sacha Baron Cohen - Signor Adolfo Pirelli
Jamie Campbell Bower - Anthony Hope
Laura Michelle Kelly - Beggar Woman
Jayne Wisener - Johanna

Mrs. Lovett: You're barking mad.
Sweeney Todd: The years, no doubt, have changed me.

Johnny Deep bursting into song - well, a melancholy durge really - might irk audiences a little, especially men. My gut feel was that it would probably start to feel normal soon, and this proved to be accurate. There is one exception: Alan Rickman as Judge Turpin, has covered in shaving foam, about to have a close encounter...him singing up close and personal didn't quite work. Besides, Alan Rickman as the old greying man doesn't work as well as the ever-black crow.

Black is certainly the color and ethos os Sweeney Todd. The reason it's a musical is probably to add something in lieu of likely detractors (who might say, "Well, there's no evidence this character existed.) Yes, according to Wikipedia Mr. Todd became something of an urban legend, but did he really exist. Probably, he did, in some shape or form. The same can be said for Jack the Ripper.

Probably the unlikeliest character in Sweeney Todd - but for a bevy of different reasons - is Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen is reincarnated as an Italian swindler, Signor Adolfo Pirelli) Yet the incarnation proves to be bizarrely accurate, for the Signor is selling bottled...well...something only the likes of Borat would stoop to foist on an unassuming audience.

The film's tagline is: Never forgive; Never Forget.

Blackened eyes and milky boobs feature prominently against a soaty London background. This is Burton's forte - the ghastly, the ghostly and the gloomy. Depp does well to remain brooding and darkly committed to never forgetting the object of his misery. Bonham Carter plays perfectly off Depp, adding appropriately dark wit and unconventional whimsy.

Sweeney Todd: [sung] They all deserve to die/Tell you why, Mrs. Lovett, tell you why/Because in all of the whole human race Mrs. Lovett there are two kinds of men and only two/There's the one staying put in his proper place and one with his foot in the other one's face/Look at me, Mrs Lovett! Look at you!/ No, we all deserve to die/ Even you, Mrs Lovett, even I!

Sweeney Todd: I can guarantee the closest shave you'll ever know.

Todd, if he ever existed, would have earned the inglorious distinction of being one of the first ever reported serial killers. The slaughters took place around 1800, either in London or Todd's tale is an agglomeration of similar incidents on the Rue de la Harpe in Paris. The method to his madness ought to go without saying:
For a flick that engages in almost laughably extreme levels of gratuitous violence, does it have any redeeming qualities?

Besides the picturesque (she resembles a classical portrait in some scenes) and sweetly beautiful innocence of Johanna (Jane Wisener) as the Judge's ward, there is also the relevant cautionary tale of the subtext. If we do not forgive, if we do not forget, how can we ever learn to live happily ever after (as illustrated in Mrs Lovett's amusingly naive montage halfway through).

Sweeney Todd: [spoken under his breath] There's a hole in the world like a great black pit, and it's filled with people who are filled of shit, and the vermin of the world inhabit it, and it goes by the name of 'London.'

The irony at that while the conclusion is appropriate, the movie still ends brutally and abruptly. It took me and many others in the audience a few dark moments to drift back to Earth (present day) and then drift gloomily out of the gloomily lit cinema. No doubt, Tim Burton achieved his grim ambitions on us.

This flick is filled with dark humor, which makes it feel longer than 116 minutes. The performances are interesting so that the overall effect is perhaps macabre and amusing.

Is there any need at this point to say: There will be blood. Bucketloads...?

Score: 7/10
MPAA:Rated R for graphic bloody violence.
Running Time: 116 min

Triva (from IMDB): Helena Bonham Carter was pregnant throughout filming with her and director Tim Burton's second child, and she insists (accurately) that the size of her breasts noticeably changes throughout the film, as filming was done out of sequence.

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