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.
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.