STUDIO:  Dreamworks
MSRP: $34.95
RUNNING TIME:  116 Minutes
-    Burton + Depp + Carter = Todd: A behind-the-scenes look at the collaboration of Tim Burton with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter featuring exclusive footage from rehearsals, recording sessions and more!
-    Sweeney Todd is Alive: The Real History of the Demon Barber
-    Musical Mayhem: Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd
-    Sweeney’s London
-    The Making of Sweeney Todd
-    Grand Guignol: A Theatrical Tradition
-    Designs for a Demon Barber
-    A Bloody Business
-    Moviefone Unscripted with Tim Burton and Johnny Depp
-    More!

The Pitch

Eat the rich, indeed.

When the 3-D budget fell through, Burton’s proposed “Bonepenis” musical number lost most of its luster.

The Humans

Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Sacha Baron Cohen, Timothy Spall

A1 Barbecue Sauce: Yeah, it’s that important.

The Nutshell

Benjamin Barker (Depp) is a barber in the Fleet Street section of London whose best years are in front of him; he’s married to a beautiful woman and has a gorgeous young daughter who was just born.  However, his wife and child catch the eye of the unscrupulous Judge Turpin (Rickman) whom has Barker arrested and sent away on false charges in order to have them all to himself.  Many years removed, Barker is returning to London, however under the name Sweeney Todd.   When he returns to his former barbershop he learns that his wife went mad and Turpin has his daughter under lock and key.  With vengeance on his mind, he forms an alliance with Mrs. Lovett, whose pie emporium proudly boasts having the worst pies in London, to finally get his revenge on Turpin.  With her help, he cuts a bloody swath through London’s underbelly, all the while preparing for the moment he’s been waiting so long for, his blades at the throat of Judge Turpin.

One of the film’s best aspects was its use of depp of field.

The Lowdown

In recent years (the divisive Big Fish excepted), Tim Burton’s output has been increasingly erratic in its quality, relying more on lifeless remakes, with his work generally living up to the source material.  That would seem to be the main problem with his recent works, as he’s first and foremost a visual filmmaker who needs a very strong source material to build his visual tapestry from, without it succumbing to visual histrionics that try in vain to distract the viewer from the limp and pace-deficient screenplays.  However, when his source material is as strong as it is in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (working from the revered Stephen Sondheim musical), and what’s more, seemingly tailor-made for his visual wheelhouse, the results are unsurprisingly excellent. 

“Really, never seen it?  It was pretty popular in some circles.  I was a librarian, she killed vampires – huh, nothing.  Wow.”

Complaints have been levied against the film for having minimal camera movement and set-ups, but I read that as partly a nod to the film’s rigid theatrical origin as well as a shout out to the Hollywood backdrop cities of the horror films of the 1920’s and 30’s (Depp’s Todd wouldn’t feel out of place in the old Universal monster catalogue, quite honestly).  The camera only begins to swirl and move energetically whenever these characters are breaking free from the monotony and grime of this Victorian-era London into their imagination or secret desires and that feels appropriate.  One thing nobody can complain about when it comes to this film is that it skirts the visceral and gore-drenched reality of what this story is about, because when it comes to blood, this film is drenched in it.  The impact is heightened by the film’s drab color palette framing the blood as sort of an exclamation mark on the proceedings throughout.  The film doesn’t skimp on the sticky stuff, and through its design it feels even more gruesome than movies that have much more violence contained within them.

All of the other kills in the movie Palin comparison to this one.

For a movie so slavishly devoted to the single-minded motives of its main character, Johnny Depp is rather ably assisted by his cast mates who all help to add character and grit to the squalor of Fleet Street and the surrounding area.  Alan Rickman is able to add a haunted aura to his Judge Turpin whilst Timothy Spall is delightfully crusty as his second, Beadle Bamford.  Sacha Baron Cohen nearly steals the show during his short time as Pirelli, further cementing his position as a permanent member of the comedy ringers club, with an option to upgrade to “Peter Sellers of the oughts”.  The big worry in casting actors for their acting without paying much attention to their ability to sing is that the music would suffer for it, but that worry for the most part goes unfounded.  The amateurish voices of many of the singers doesn’t generally hamper the songs, for the most part it makes them feel a little bit more wild and raw than they would’ve otherwise.  It sort of reflects the tenor of the setting that these singers being a little more unprofessional and untrained than others. 

At first, Johnny thought it was strange when he’d hear the footsteps outside his door whenever he brought a lady home, but then he realized: Reed just liked to watch.

So do the songs themselves, for that matter; they’re big, gloomy operatic odes filled with ominous portent, not your usual fare for a movie musical.  At first listen they don’t strike you as particularly memorable (except for “Joanna”’s ability to drill itself into your cerebral cortex and take up semi-permanent residence), but they’re almost all growers with melodies appearing in unexpected places and haunting you instead of happily staying with you.  There’s only one song that doesn’t work, “The Worst Pies in London”, and that has more to do with Helena Bonham Carter not enunciating and making the song incoherent even on multiple viewings instead of a fault of the song’s composition.  Much like most aspects of the film, the music is a grower, sticking with you long after you’ve viewed it. 


It’s nice to see Burton return to form, and it just goes to show what solid source material can do for a director whose mired in a Travis Hafner-esque slump; if you’ve got such a strong foundation for what’s being shot it’s often hard to screw that up in any catastrophic way.  Burton being the visual stylist that he is, hits it out of the park, and Sweeney Todd is another in a long line of fantastic films from last year.  Highly recommended.

28 days – eye, ear and respiratory system begin to
42 days – brain waves recorded, skeleton complete,
reflexes present.
49 days – sends electronic questions via the internet.

The Package

The cover art isn’t spectacular (it seems to be catering so specifically to the Hot Topic crowd), but I like its design as opposed to the poster art (kudos for the razorblade framing on the cover and the back).  The movie struck me as being worthy of better promotional art from the get-go, though.  There are a lot of little tidbits to be waded through in the bonus material, although no deleted scenes, so those who hoped to see an excised “Ballad of Sweeney Todd” number will have to go wanting.  For the most part (save for the Bloody Business featurette, which examines the arterial sprays of karo syrup that dominate the latter portions of the film), the material that is more about the history of the source material is infinitely more entertaining and interesting than that related directly the movie.  The Moviefone Unscripted segment is also notable if simply for Burton and Depp kind of dicking around for the majority of the process, which is always entertaining to watch.  However, if you were a fan of the movie it’s at least worth a once over. 

8.2 out of 10