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Sweeney Todd: Sumptuous and Tragic

As I was leaving the screening of Sweeney Todd, my mind was swirling with those silly, cliche comments often seen accompanying ads for critically acclaimed movies: "Sweeney Todd is . . . a visual masterpiece!" "Another Burton beauty!" "A tale of blood and woe — woah!" I'll spare you the rest. The bottom line is that I was impressed. And nauseated. But mostly impressed.

The Stephen Sondheim musical and Tim Burton are a match made in heaven. Burton's dark, sinister-looking scenery and the bloody, musical horrorfest of a story gel together seamlessly to create something so lushly gory — but heartfelt — you may need to dry heave a little bit.

The story follows Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp), a young man wrongfully imprisoned because the evil Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) was obsessed with Barker's wife Lucy (Laura Michelle Kelly) and wanted her for himself. Years later when Barker returns to London, he renames himself Sweeney Todd and opens up a barber shop above Mrs. Lovett's (Helena Bonham Carter) meat pie shop, hoping to exact revenge on the judge by luring him in for a shave and then slitting his throat. For his part, Judge Turpin has been keeping Todd's daughter Joanna as his ward. Yet when a young friend of Todd's falls in love with Joanna by spotting her at her window, he determines to break her free from the Judge's grasp. Meanwhile, Mrs. Lovett and Sweeney Todd figure out a gruesome way to boost her meat pie sales. Those are basic plot points, but there's much more to say about Sweeney Todd, so


Burton does some gorgeous tricks with light, color and reflection. Cracked mirrors and the reflections glinting off of Sweeney Todd's shaving blades are heavily used to distort or duplicate images, and to not-so-subtly symbolize Benjamin Barker/Sweeney Todd's fractured identity and his tortured soul. Burton's London is swathed in shadows and muted by a dark gray sky. His color palette consists of shades of gray with tinges of gold, blue and raspberry. The jarring exception, of course, is the brilliantly red blood that gushes freely, sometimes spurting onto the camera lens itself, causing the audience to instinctively jump back. The one time he interrupts this dismal color scheme is when depicting Mrs. Lovett's wistful dream of marrying "Mr. T" and spending the rest of her days "by the sea." The quintessentially Burtonesque costumes and candy-bright colors in this sequence are outrageous and delightful enough to garner giggles of surprise.

Johnny Depp is magnificent, as always, and the rest of the actors are wonderfully cast. Alan Rickman is genuinely disturbing as the perverted old judge. His right-hand man played by Timothy Spall is convincingly sick and twisted. Sacha Baron Cohen is funny as the competing barber Signor Adolfo Pirelli, which is to be expected, but the surprise is that his performance is also quite chilling. My favorite aspect of this film, however, is the classic Depp-Bonham Carter combination. They're simply the most perfect duo, as always — each strange and broken-down in their own way, yet both powerful in their own way, too.

This movie has been hyped to the gills, and it's hard to live up to such high expectations. Having said all this great stuff about the movie, the fact remains that it is still a musical, and people who think musicals are silly will most assuredly still think this movie is silly — Johnny Depp or no Johnny Depp. The movie is also not for the squeamish, as there is more blood — and, well, ground up human meat — than a B-grade slasher flick. I have an average-strength stomach and I felt the gag reflex kick in more than once. If you like this sort of thing, however, it's all worth it. Go see Sweeney Todd. Just eat a light meal beforehand.

To see the trailer and more clips from Sweeney Todd check out

Photos courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Join The Conversation
dsbnh369 dsbnh369 9 years
Depp's vocals are underwhelming to say the least.
Sookie Sookie 9 years
I think I saw about 65% of the movie..I agree that it was very well done..but LORD, so much blood.
yiddidea yiddidea 9 years
I finally saw this over the weekend and it was brilliant! It is finally time for Tim Burton to win his Acadamey Award.
MollyKat25 MollyKat25 9 years
Good Movie. Even my boyfriend liked it (even with all the singing)!
wilma1 wilma1 9 years
Johnny Depp is been up for nominee of Sweeney Todd of Best Actor,Tim Burton Best Director and Helena Bonham Carter Best Actress and Sweeney Todd Best Movie.OOOOHHHH I hope all three of them win.It will be this Sunday8/7 NBC on Golden Globe Award.
ning ning 9 years
My throat felt uneasy after the movie...
californiagirlx7 californiagirlx7 9 years
Kellylicious - I kept thinking about Jersey Girl too.
barbienaki barbienaki 9 years
LOVE tim burton's movies....and i think that sweeney todd is a masterpiece...LUv,Luv,Luv Johnny depp...
wilma1 wilma1 9 years
I will be glad when I get to go see it because it hasn't got to Wichita Falls,Tx. yet.
Kellylicious Kellylicious 9 years
p.s. i can't help myself. whenever i think of sweeney todd, i think of the movie jersey girl.
Kellylicious Kellylicious 9 years
definitely into the return of the musical.
beingtazim beingtazim 9 years
oh man do i love everything tim burton and johnny depp! can't wait to see this one!
theironist theironist 9 years
I have been in love with the musical for a long time and was SO excited when I heard they were making it into a moviefilm. Especially with Johnny Depp in the lead. Singing is really important to me, and I was truly impressed with Depp's voice. Loved, loved, loved it. Carter...not so much. I thought she was truly haunting and great, but I do wish she could actually sing. That being said, the songs have not been leaving my head, and it's never a good thing to be walking around a store quietly singing "we all deserve to die." Haha, it really helps with the Holiday spirit. I did really love the film.
krampalicious krampalicious 9 years
loved it, but it was almost ruined by all the lame a-holes in the theatre who came to see it strictly for johnny depp and had no idea otherwise what it was about. idiots. the music is amazing, i'd never heard any of it before, and now i must see the broadway show. a wonderful, gory antidote to all the syrupy holiday dreck out there.
aurora7 aurora7 9 years
I realllly hope this will live up the the expectations. I love Johnny Depp!!!!!!
hotstuff hotstuff 9 years
I saw this and it really wasn't all that great. I could barely stay awake in the beginning. I give it a meh.
bailaoragaditana bailaoragaditana 9 years
As much as I love Johnny Depp and Alan Rickman, I'm afraid that blood and gore - and especially meat - are not really the sorts of things I want in a film. My delicate constitution would be just a tad upset...
halfbakedjake halfbakedjake 9 years
word of advice: don't bring your mom who loves musicals and period pieces without a bit of a heads up on the gore factor
HitThat9787 HitThat9787 9 years
Great movie.Something about Johnny singing showtunes is so sexy,hehe
californiagirlx7 californiagirlx7 9 years
I just got back from seeing it and I thought it was a really great movie. Its not my favorite Tim Burton film, but it was very artistic and the music was amaaazing. There is a lot of blood though and some the murders are very brutal, but the blood looked fake to me so I got used to it.
HustleRose HustleRose 9 years
Saw it tonight.... Loved it! It was morbid and macabre, but moving. Tragic and gloomy, Tim Burton's vision of London is indeed grim. Johnny Depp is amazing as Sweeney Todd, although you know it's Johnny Depp because his mannerisms are so specific, yet it's almost as if he's been completely posessed by the spirit of the vengeful Mr. T. Helena Bonham Carter is devious and manipulative, yet vunerable emotionally. Alan Rickman was lecherous and creepy as fuck. Sacha Baron Cohen although a bit part steals the scenes he is in, which is a hard thing to do when you're opposite Johnny Depp. The girl who played the daughter to was also awesome, beautiful, but sad and haunted by the ghosts of her past. Over all an awesome movie if you don't mind a bit of blood and dialogue mostly expressed musically.
snapsh0t snapsh0t 9 years
Loved it!! Depp and HBC were made for those roles. :D
sgdish sgdish 9 years
I want to see this!
Lilhighlander Lilhighlander 9 years
It was so worth it! Guilty Pleasure! The cast is AMAZING! Do you self a favor and spend 2 hours with them this holiday season! :-)
KimBurnett KimBurnett 9 years
Tim Burton is original and Johnny Depp is smart and talented, what a combo. Can't wait. For the DVD. Theaters aren't worth it anymore.
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