Tuesday, April 8, 2008

"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"

Musical/Thriller starring Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Sacha Baren Cohen, Timothy Spaall. Directed by Tim Burton. What a marvelous combination this is: Burton, a director I’ve always considered very overrated, his alter ego Depp and his wife Bonham Carter all coming together via composer Stephen Sondheim — and just when I was giving up on the notion that a decent movie would ever be made from a Sondheim score. Benjamin Barker returns to London seeking revenge on the judge (Rickman) who sentenced Barker to prison for a crime he didn’t commit, raped Barker’s wife and took Barker’s infant daughter as his own ward. Changing his name to Sweeney Todd, Barker sets up shop above a restaurant run by Mrs. Lovett (Bonham Carter), with whom he forms a grisly professional partnership, although Mrs. Lovett craves one far more personal. Burton’s prior films have been, to me, all approach with no substance. But here he combines his flair for superb visuals with his unique approach to the horror genre and applies them to a plot that always knows its destination and arrives there without one false step or one missing beat. Purists may quibble about the fact that Burton dropped the show’s title song from the movie’s score, but that song was far more a theatrical device than a cinematic one to begin with. Plus, I much admire Burton’s leaner, cleaner ending. Grade B+

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