Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street DVD

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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street DVD

Tim Burton brings his trademark sense of dark whimsy to this stage-to-screen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's classic musical. Johnny Depp reteams wit...

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Review of "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street DVD"

published 19/02/2008 | pmcds
Member since : 07/11/2005
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Pro Great cast, director and musical director
Cons Awkward performance as a musical.
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"Jack Sparrow does Fleet Street"

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, is essentially a remake of George King's 1936 classic, where the malicious Sweeney Todd murders people for their money. This 2007 version takes Stephen Sondheim's stage production of the tale into the cinema, with the pairing of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp as Director and Lead Actor once again rearing its sublime head.

It is important to note from the outset that there are scenes of a gory nature and that the film is by nature a 'musical.'

The plot

Depp plays Benjamin Barker, a doting husband to Lucy and father to Johanna making his living as a barber. He is accused of a crime he did not commit and banished from London by a judge (played by Alan Rickman) who wishes to covet Barker's wife, Lucy. 15 years later, Barker returns to London under the guise of Sweeney Todd, to find his daughter Johanna, under the care of the very judge who had sentenced him, and his wife gone, having taken poison, unable to continue. Todd returns to London with the young Anthony Hope, and they find shelter with Mrs Lovett, the not-so-moralistic owner of a meat pie shop, played by Helena Bonham Carter. Soon, bloodlust overcomes Todd and business sense takes hold of meat pie maker Lovett (make of this what you will) and the Demon Barber starts on a murderous rampage, before the stories of all the characters intertwine with disasterous consequences in a blood-fuelled finale.

The Performances

Depp's performance as Todd is brilliant. It is well documented that he can do a very good English accent. Those who have seen any of the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' films will know this. Yet in this he sounds the same, and indeed if you have watched these films, you would be forgiven for thinking you were looking at Captain Jack Sparrow with a different haircut and less makeup! However, this does not detract from his brilliant performance as the maliciously cold Sweeney Todd.

Alan Rickman performs in true admirable style as the judge who steals Barker's life and then continues through his own with a holier than thou attitude. He is sufficiently haughty and also careful to not steal the show and remain as a supporting actor. Timothy Spall plays his right hand man with aplomb and sufficient repulsiveness to deserve another appraisal from me as one of Britain's finest supporting actors of the past few decades. There are also good performances from Sacha Baron Cohen as Signor Adolfo Pirelli, Jamie Campbell Bower as Hope and the young Ed Sanders as Toby.

But the star of the show is Helena Bonham Carter, with her cold but moralistic turn as Mrs Lovett. I have always admired this actress, as she has never been one to clamour for the spotlight, but has always had the talent for it. Performances in films such as Fight Club could have launched her onto a larger stage, but maybe the Hollywood 'A' list is not where she wants to be. A traditionally excellent British actress if I ever saw one, one who hopefully will in years to come be held in as high respect as such Dames as Helen Mirren and Judi Dench. Here in Sweeney Todd, she outperforms everyone else by far, surpassing even the combination of Burton and Depp to take pride of place.

My Opinion

The combination of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp seems to be one rooted in history. It is a wonderful union of director and actor that will hopefully continue for many years. Burton's flirtation with the dark, surreal world of film combined with Depp's knack for providing the audience with a rebellious feel gives the moviegoer a feel of privilege whenever the two combine. And when this pairing is joined by Burton's wife, no other than Helena Bonham Carter, you get what may in time be described as a cult masterpiece. Yet this is not for the faint-hearted. You must be in the mood, for there are times during the film where the pace changes dramatically, such is the musical nature of it.

Despite this praiseworthy summary, I was not massively impressed by the whole ensemble: impressive cast list, great director who stays true to his genre, combined with great acting, indeed SUPERB acting, leads to what I can only describe as an above average film that promised so much more. I feel this is down to the fact that this is essentially a musical production as much as anything else. Granted, a few of the numbers are catchy and the cast can all sing, there is no doubt about that. But it does not hold true, and almost seems out of place. None of the cast seem the musical type. I admit, for many, this could be the appeal, and no doubt in time I will look back on this film in wonderment. For the moment, I am happy to have seen a film I was impressed by in so many ways, even if I was uncomfortable watching due to its musical nature.

I would recommend this film to anyone who is not afraid of a bit of gore mixed with music. A fine set of performances from all the cast, and very typical of Tim Burton behind the camera, as well as having some catchy numbers from Stephen Sondheim. A good film.

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Comments on this review

  • plymouth117 published 14/03/2008
    Cool review. Saw this on stage about 7 years ago and like Depp so will be checking this out.
  • colleen_uk published 01/03/2008
    Thanks for this review I was unsure as to whether I wanted to see this but your review has convinced me!
  • Morning_Becomes_Electra published 28/02/2008
    Very good review! I am looking forward to seeing this film. Electra.
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Product Information : Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street DVD

Manufacturer's product description

Tim Burton brings his trademark sense of dark whimsy to this stage-to-screen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's classic musical. Johnny Depp reteams with the director to play the titular Demon Barber of Fleet Street, with Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, and Sacha Baron Cohen as his co-stars.


Listed on Ciao since: 26/01/2008