This dark tale is a triumphant achievement for director Tim Burton. This adaptation of the original Steven Sondheim musical expands the scope of the original stage play and adds a dose of graphic realism that the original could never hope to achieve. The recreation of 18th Century London from the Thames to the narrow lanes of Fleet Street provides a perfect stage for telling this famous story of a man wrongly imprisoned and widowed, who returns to the city that wronged him in order to wreak his revenge on the unjust and the unworthy by coldly slitting their throats one by one.
Johnny Depp plays Sweeney Todd, the mad barber who cuts a swath through the city of London, with a surprisingly deft touch in a role that could so easily be overplayed. Helena Bonham Carter plays Mrs. Lovett the pie-maker who makes good use of the by-products of her tenant's work as she desparately tries to make him forget his martyred wife. Alan Rickman plays the evil Judge Turpin and gives as able a performance as the script allows. Newcomer Ed Sanders is charming as the young boy Toby, a charming waif who escapes from the clutches of an abusive villain whom he shilled for in his travelling medicine show and helps out Mrs. Lovett in the shop.
Fans of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp will feel right at home, despite the fact that Sweeney Todd is a musical. I couldn't help but be reminded of an earlier Burton film, the animated feature "Corpse Bride" that also starred Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter because their characters in this film reminded me so much of those they played before both in their appearance and personality. This "Sweeney Todd" is very, VERY graphic in its depiction of the blood-spurting victims of the mad barber's blade, so be forewarned. But its a film that has already won several Golden Globe Awards and is a favorite to win even more when the Oscars roll around. There's a single DVD set available, or a two-disc special edition that includes interviews with all of the primary participants, as well as the venerable Steven Sondheim, and a history of the story of Sweeney Todd. Many people will wonder why anyone would be interested in a movie like this one. The answer is simply that at its core, its the compelling human story of a good and decent man who was driven mad by the loss of his wife and daughter and all at the hands of an arrogant and ruthless judge, and for whom fate ultimately seemed to have his life in its crosshairs.
Rainbo Electronic Reviews published this review in our April, 2008 issue.
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