Combustible Celluloid
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With: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jamie Campbell Bower, Laura Michelle Kelly, Jayne Wisener, Ed Sanders
Written by: John Logan, Christopher Bond, based on the musical by Stephen Sondheim, Hugh Wheeler
Directed by: Tim Burton
MPAA Rating: R for graphic bloody violence
Running Time: 117
Date: 12/03/2007

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

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Unsafe Barber

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I'm not sure Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd works very well as a musical, but it's one hell of a movie. Johnny Depp stars as the title character, a falsely arrested exile who returns via ship to London to find his long lost wife and child. Upon learning of his wife's death, he sets up a barbershop to take his revenge on those who caused his suffering, namely Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman). Todd's chair is rigged so that he can slice his customer's neck, then plunge the body into the basement below, where the remains will be ground up and used for meat pies.

Looking her goth best, Helena Bonham Carter plays the pie-baker Mrs. Lovett, who falls in love with Todd and goes along with his gruesome plan. At the same time, Todd's younger shipmate (Jamie Campbell Bower) falls in love with a young woman (Jayne Wisener), who is actually Todd's daughter.

In-between characters sing; Depp and Carter are passable amateurs, while the younger actors seem to have more stage training. None of the songs stuck with me, I have to admit. But the film's astonishingly dark, beautiful design evokes Batman (1989) and all its well-earned comparisons to Metropolis and Blade Runner. It's nice to see all the usual Burton touches, from Depp's extreme makeup to the goth girls to the pretty young blondes. This is definitely a return to form for him.

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