Plot: This musical gets the big-screen adaptation from director Tim Burton. Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) is a highly trained barber who was wrongly imprisoned by Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman). He comes back to town, seeking revenge and gets help from Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter) and her meat pie shop. Who’s it for: It’s definitely a musical, so be prepared to sit through numerous numbers. Less than half are of the upbeat variety.
Expectations: I never saw a production of “Sweeney Todd,” but I knew the gist of the story. I was more curious to see if Depp could sing and if this really was a dark musical.
SCORECARD Actors: Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd: Todd’s main goal is to remain angry the entire time. Depp does this, but that also makes him a one-dimensional character. Eventually, Todd goes off the deep end and starts eliminating the customer base, one slash at a time. There is always something delicious about choosing evil vs. evil, and when you can cheer for Depp, it’s a no-brainer. Grade: 7
Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett: Carter recaptured her “Fight Club” look quite nicely. She’s also able to lose herself in the role, something Depp is never able to fully pull off. Mrs. Lovett balances her need to be a team with Todd, the revitalized meat pie shop, and her affection for the young Tobias (Ed Sanders) all with a delightful and suspicious tone. Grade: 9
Alan Rickman as Judge Turpin: I can’t believe I am saying this, but Rickman was more evil (and fun) in “Robin Hood.” He needed to go overboard but instead that went to Timothy Spall as his henchmen Beadle Bamford, who steals most of their shared scenes. Grade: 6
Talking: There are moments of dialogue in between the songs and typically those work. The problem with musicals is, if the song isn’t great it takes about five minutes to tell the audience what could have been summed up in a minute or two. Grade: 6
Sights and sounds: Burton is great at creating gloom, as proven through out his resume with “Sleepy Hollow” and “Edward Scissorhands.” Only a few musical numbers are really done well, with the best being when Mrs. Lovett dreams of the future and Todd is unhappily by her side. Grade: 7
PLOT SPOILERS Best Scene: When Todd and Mrs. Lovett finally figure out how to dispose of the bodies, singing about eating the different townsfolk that won’t be missed, the film finally hits the perfect note between evil and amusement.
Ending: It’s a tragedy with a nice twist, but one that needed to happen. I would have appreciated a little more follow through on the story, wanting to know what happens to the characters who survive.
Random Thoughts: Depp can carry a tune, but it’s mainly talking instead of singing and I kept hearing a little Captain Jack in his voice. I never knew there was another Mr. T running around for all these years. It also would have been nice for Todd to actually cut someone’s hair just once.
Rewatchability: After seeing this film once, a second helping would be fine. But just like most times with more of the same thing, you won’t need to sit through the entire film. There are many musical moments where you can run to the bathroom or get a snack.
OVERALL One reason “Sweeney Todd” is a standout on Broadway is because it’s alone as the thrilling, guts and all, musical. The difference here is that film audiences are used to blood. So some of the chilling effect is lost and the young romance between Anthony and Johanne is almost nonexistent. Johnny Depp will sell the tickets, Tim Burton will paint the picture and there will be singing, but the real treat of “Sweeney Todd” is Helena Bonham Carter. Her comedic touch, along with competing barber Sacha Baron Cohen, helps the audience laugh in the face of all that crimson liquid. And if I am ever unfortunate enough to encounter a meat pie, I’ll definitely have the demon barber to thank for the thoughts running through my head.
Overall Score: 7