Sweeney Todd

Tim Burton’s big screen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is a visually magnificent, yet gruesome, tale of morality, love, and vengeance intertwined into a tightly wound ball of barbed wire.  Johnny Depp, friend of Burton and godfather to his child, steps into the lead of Benjamin Barker, the “razor-wielding” barber who, with the help of Mrs. Lovett, (Burton’s longtime gal pal and mother of his son, Helena Bonham Carter) gives his patrons the best and last shave of their lives then uses them as ingredients for meat pies.  In a mini “Harry Potter” reunion, the cast rounds out with Alan Rickman as evil, Judge Turpin and Timothy Spall as Beadle Bamford, the judges morally inept, yet faithful side-kick.  Judge Turpin sets this tragic love story in motion, when, after admiring Barker’s family from afar, he has poor Ben deported on trumped up charges and then steps in as patriarch of Benjamin’s family.  Fifteen years later, Barker returns to Fleet Street with a new name, Sweeney Todd, and a new agenda.  After Mrs. Lovett, owner of a failing meat pie shop (she can’t afford meat), fills Todd in on the tragic details of his family, Todd is pushed even further into his dark world of revenge and desperation.  Soon enough, Mrs. Lovett’s meat pie shop is no longer failing.  The movie has all the genius visual effects that only Burton can add, not to mention the comedy sprinkled throughout the script  carefully enough to make us feel comfortable amid all the blood, yet executed perfectly enough not to distract us from a dark tale worth telling.  Giving the mood an extra lift is, of course, the singing.  Depp, Carter, Rickman, and Spall hit every note and demand our attention, our anger, our disgust, and in the end, our sympathy.  We would expect nothing else from such pros.  (After all haven’t we loved Rickman ever since the first Die Hard?)  But bringing the movie home is the superb supporting acting.  Newbies Jamie Campbell Bower and Jayne Wisener play Anthony and Johanna, young lovers who both have such dramatic interesting facial features and powerful voices  that entrance and captivate.  The youngest of the cast is Ed Sanders, as Toby, the tiny assistant to the barber rival Pirelli.  Pirelli, played fabulously by Sacha Baron Cohen is just an added bonus in Burton and Depp’s latest masterpiece.


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