Q: What’s the movie about?
A: Based on the hit Broadway musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Sweeney Todd, aka Benjamin Barker, returns to London after a lengthy exile to exact revenge on the Judge who sent him to prison so he could be with Sweeney’s wife and daughter.
Q: Who’s in the movie?
A: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jamie Campbell Bower, Jayne Wisener, Anthony Head
Q: Is this movie worth the price of admission?
A: Proceed with caution. Speaking as someone who has never seen the staged production of Sweeney Todd, I’m going to assume that if you liked that, you will most likely also enjoy this film interpretation. Otherwise, keep in mind it is a musical, and the characters sing. A lot. The story is extremely dark, oftentimes disturbingly so, and although the bloodletting has a certain operatic grace about it, there is a ton of throat-slitting and once it starts, the blood flows and spatters pretty much non-stop. This movie will not put you in the holiday spirit, and people looking for more depth in a film’s storytelling and characters would be better served looking elsewhere.
Q: Will this movie make me laugh?
A: Let’s hope so, because the comedy is one of its few redeeming qualities. Like the film, the humor is pitch-black dark and when it comes from a clever turn-of-phrase from a Sondheim lyric it’s especially funny.
Q: Will this movie make me cry?
A: Only if you weep over the death of cockroaches.
Q: Will this movie be up for any awards?
A: If the Academy feels so obliged, hopefully they will restrain themselves to categories like costume and production design.
Q: How is the Acting?
A: Superb from top to bottom. Johnny Depp is terrific as Sweeney and his singing voice is surprisingly good. He speaks and sings in a cockney accent and puts an amazing amount of emotion into the lyrics. Helena Bonham Carter is perfect as Mrs. Lovett, the deranged pie-maker with a major crush on Sweeney. Sacha Baron Cohen (“Borat” himself) is hilarious as a rival barber and newcomer Jayne Wisener as Johanna, Sweeney’s teenage daughter, has a voice that will blow everyone away. The acting is the best thing about Sweeney Todd.
Q: How is the Directing?
A: It’s Tim Burton with all the usual Tim Burton-isms. The film is beautiful to look at like most of his movies are, almost like a painting. But it is also very confined and shot in a lot of close-ups. It hasn’t been ‘opened-up’ as much as one might expect from a director like Burton, as if he intentionally kept to the spirit of its theatrical roots.
Q: How is the story/script?
A: Apparently the film adheres very closely to the original Broadway production, and as a movie, that’s where it falters. The story and set-up are so extremely simple, that they deny the characters any real depth that might have made us actually care about them. Since the story is so surface, all we’re left to hold onto are the stunning images and great songs. You won’t feel much for any of the characters, but you could have if they’d bothered to flesh out the story a bit more.
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