Saturday, December 29, 2007

Sweeney Todd Review

I’ve decided that Johnny Depp is too cool to see on the big screen with your wife. There isn’t much chance of cuddling while maestro Depp is captivating every diet-coke slurping female in a 60-foot radius. Oh well.


I have to be honest, I haven’t really liked a musical made into a film since the Sound of Music and the Golden era of movie-musicals. (The producers, the ONLY exception. “Yessssssssssssssssss…ssss…sssss?” Friggin hilarious.) It’s not like I go into musicals made into movies hoping they will be bad. I’m much too poor to waste money like that. They just kinda don’t do much for me. Yes that includes that over dramatic two-hour music video “Dream Girls.” It bored my butt numb. (However, I have since recanted my judgment on Beyonce and declare that she was a slightly better actor than Jennifer Hudson. No excuse for her attitude post Jennifer-mania, but she was definitely under-credited for her work there. And Jennifer Hudson beating all of those other actors out for the academy award was laughable.)


Happily, Sweeney Todd was another exception. It was a darn good adaptation in my opinion. Theater snobs will disagree, and I can sympathize, but overall, it was a well-crafted, exhilarating flick.

The Gist:

You’re a famous barber in England back when people still traveled by ship and used oil lamps, and the sun never shines and fog is everywhere, all the time. The one day it does shine, a rich Judge steals your wife after he wrongfully accuses you of something and sends you to jail. The judge then steals your baby daughter and raises her himself. (Wait a second... that kinda sounds like Zorro...) Anyways, You return from the clink in fifteen years looking like you’ve been injected with skunk and zombie gene therapy and sing a little bit about it in a brooding monotone. Then you begin a new career as a throat-slashing barber. But that’s not enough. You enlist the landlady to grind the leftover corpses and bake them in her meat pies and sell them to the corrupt city. Eventually you get even with the judge that janked your wife, and much blood is spewed. - The rest I’ll let you see for yourself.

Things I loved:

One of the things that I loved about Depp’s performance was that the transition from speech to song was seamless. It never seemed like he was setting up for a song. I hate that in modern day movie-musicals. On stage it’s different. Set up all you want. It is a part of the show, part of the magic. But transferred to film, it’s just comes off as cornballoramma punch. My thumb immediately moves to the fast-forward button. Not so with Depp in Sweeny. It just happened. That magic was part Depp and part Burton. However, the biggest part of the magic-credit belongs to Sondheim.

Sondheim is a genius. No if ands or buts. I practically flipped during some of that music. An embarrassing note: In a recent conversation with a producer here in the city, I made the mistake in referring to Sondheim in the past tense. Yep, I thought Sondheim was dead. Derr. I thought the man was going to smack me then and there. He demanded that I cross myself and say a prayer for his buddy Sondheim’s health. “He better not be dead, I just talked to him this yesterday and he’s excited about the movie.” You can’t imagine the me-stupid look on my face.)

Cinematography: I suppose I could sum-up the film’s overall look in a few sentences. Sweeney Todd is Edward Scissor-hands meets Sleepy Hollow. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. Oh yeah, tack on about 876975 quarts of blood and a couple hundred “meat” pies.

Allan Rickman was awesome as usual. (Btw, has anyone seen Galaxy Quest? One of my favorite Allan Rickman flicks.)

The little orphan boy was the best singer of the lot and he was a pretty great little actor too. He’s probably the only one in the whole flick who could actually have Broadway career.

Borat was hilarious as the competing barber. I’m glad to see Sacha Baron Cohen is starring in some “serious” movies. After seeing his performance in Sweeney, I predict a possible Academy Award nomination outta' that guy in the next 7 years, if the right part comes along. Just something about him.

Finally, most of all, I loved the song “Joanna.” I think it might be one of the most beautiful songs in all theater lit. It is just flat-out beautiful. I’ve been singing it since I saw it. It is my wife’s favorite theater song, and that’s saying a lot.

Things I didn’t love:

Sweeny’s daughter’s voice. She sounded like my grandma’s best friend singing a bunch of hymns I’ve never heard of. Her voice was tiny, pinched, and wobbly. The kind of voice where you want to like the effort, and smile at the heart behind it, but most of all you just want it to stop. I hate to be too mean but it was really a little unnerving to listen to her. I can’t imagine the hours the sound editors spent in front of pro tools working with auto-tune to correct the wobbleizations. You could jump-rope through the vibrato frequencies.

Verdict: A- Good flick. Go see it if you like Burton movies, Johnny Depp, and or Sondheim. Plug your ears during the daughter's song. For the love of God, don’t take your little kids to it, or your Grandma just because it’s a musical. It is bloody I tell ya. Also bloody good.


The Cachinnator said...

Great film.

I feel you on the wife + Depp = I'm a useless fat slob.

Don't forget Moulin Rouge when assessing recent musicals. It's been the only good one of the past decade.

Jennifer Hudson was poop on a stick. I've never seen a more bland one-note performance in my life. Oscar? Do they have any value any more? Not after that.

As for theatre snobs, who gives a rats ass what they say about it. It's not a freakin' stage musical. It's a film. It needs to be viewed as a film. It should only be viewed as a film. The suckiest thing about all the recent movie adaptations of stage musicals is that they haven't worked as films. They've been little more than a filmed version of the stage musical. And they haven't translated. Dreamgirls? The Producers? RENT? Phantom? All crap. Even Chicago was vastly overrated.

I feel you, bro. I'll be in NYC in a few weeks. We must hang.

Super Churchlady said...

hmmm... I must be too old to appreciate the Depp/Diet Coke Combo. Appreciate his work, but the attraction stops there. (Generally, I don't find men attractive that are prettier and more feminine than I.)

I haven't seen this movie, but in the previews, it looks like they just pulled out Edward Scissorhands and gave him some grey hair.

tee said...

who pee-ed in your cheerios?
beyonce isnt a better actress than jennifer, beyonce gives that same face with sad eyes a flaring nostrils at the end of a serious scene. she deserved that oscar, she was the most believable person in that movie.
watever to the rest of the article.

FancyPants said...

Cach, you're coming to NYC??!! Woo hoo!! Is it just you, or you and Becky? Can I hang out, too? Can I? huh? huh?

About Jennifer: I've never seen a more bland one-note performance in my life.

I couldn't agree more. Everything was delivered in the exact same way. All of her songs seemed like just one long never ending song. Boring. I still can't get over the fact that she beat Cate Blanchett for that award. It's not right.

About Depp: Edward Sissorhands for sure. But still, I enjoyed his performance. I'm not sure it'll win him that Oscar, but who knows. I thought the fact that his singing wasn't exactly what you'd get on stage showed his humanity, which is crucial for that role.

And S.C., didn't you catch Johnny Depp on "21 Jumpstreet" years ago? Far from feminine, I would say. =-)

About Sondheim: This was some of the best music I've heard in a musical. Incredible. The older I get the more I love Sondheim. Such depth all around: lyrics, harmonic structure. And interesting melodic lines yet completely singable and memorable, characteristics which HAVE to be there for it to be a musical. But he somehow creates these lines that are unexpected and different.

Mer said...

Wait, wait, wait, the ONLY exception?? The "Yess...sss..sss." part? Are you kidding? The Producers has so many more funny parts. I think the Big Apple has made you crazy, you have to come home.

Seth Ward said...


Cach, yeah I thought about Moulin Rouge when I was writing this but I didn't think that Moulin Rouge was a musical before it was a movie. But, for sure, a creative and cinematic tour de force there. We are so hanging out when you get here. Much dark beverage will be consumed.

Super Churchlady, I appreciate the sentiment... However, have you seen any interview with the dude? I was hoping he would be a little girly but he's not. He's kinda Brando, which happened to be like Depp's mentor.

tee, "nostrils flare"... HAAAA!!! Funny, I forgot about that. Actually, I don't really think either of them are good. I like their voices a lot, but as far as acting... Just because you can be yourself on camera doesn't mean you are a good actor.

Fancy: "Such depth all around: lyrics, harmonic structure. And interesting melodic lines yet completely singable and memorable, characteristics which HAVE to be there for it to be a musical. But he somehow creates these lines that are unexpected and different." Couldn't agree more there. Well said!

Super Churchlady said...

Yeah - I've seen the interviews. He's a great actor no doubt - but more than that?...I'm not feelin' it.

(Again - this could be a generational thing. Or - maybe it's because I might possibly weigh more than he does. Or - if I'm really honest with myself - it could be that I feel this way because I don't like his politics. Not one bit.)

Hence the name.....SCL.