Wednesday, August 26, 2009

#490: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Johnny Depp & Helena Bonham-Carter

The legend of Sweeney Todd has uncertain origins. It's been claimed that Sweeney Todd is an historical character, though that allegation has been disputed. His first appearance was in a serial publication in the 1840's, though similar characters had been written of before this time.

Sondheim's version of the tale has two relationships: that of Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett, and Todd's daughter Joanna and his shipmate Anthony. While Todd had been overseas serving his sentence for a false accusation, Joanna and his wife Lucy were taken under the charge of Judge Turpin. Soon after, Lucy commits suicide, and Joanna is locked up in her room at the Judge's house in what appears to be Mayfair. When Todd returns to his old flat, his downstairs neighbor, Mrs. Lovett relays the history of Joanna and Lucy. Todd seeks vengeance, rekindling his old barber shop, where he slits his client's throats and sends their corpses downstairs to use their meet in Mrs. Lovett's pie shop.

Under the art direction of Gary Freeman (Children of Men, Aeon Flux, and About a Boy), the film is a true spectacle. Sondheim's music is incredible, as well, though the choice of cast is dubious. None of the cast has much of a history in singing. The only singer that stands out is the young Ed Sanders, who plays Mrs. Lovett's newfound assistant in the pie shop. I certainly give Bonham-Carter credit for an enjoyable performance.

I maintain my position that Johnny Depp has lost credibility in recent years. He is certainly talented, as he's shown in his older films such as Benny & Joon, Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands. Since he's hit it big with Pirates of the Caribbean, I've found him to be lacking the effort he used to put in to his films, and it's come across as arrogance.

Sweeney Todd is just another example of using big names in a film which could be a fantastic opportunity for fresh faces, but Burton has a habit of constantly using the same actors. I also believe that today's audience has given Burton too much credit for this film, though the real praise should be given to Stephen Sondheim. I would much rather have seen Big Fish in this film's place, though it hasn't made the list at all.

Fun Trivia (Stolen from IMDB):

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