Johnny Depp and Tim Burton join forces again in a big-screen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's award-winning musical thriller "Sweeney Todd." Depp stars in the title role as a man unjustly sent to prison who vows revenge, n... more »ot only for that cruel punishment, but for the devastating consequences of what happened to his wife and daughter. When he returns to reopen his barber shop, Sweeney Todd becomes the Demon Barber of Fleet Street who "shaved the heads of gentlemen who never thereafter were heard from again." Joining Depp is Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett, Sweeney's amorous accomplice, who creates diabolical meat pies. The cast also includes Alan Rickman, who portrays the evil Judge Turpin, who sends Sweeney to prison and Timothy Spall as the Judge's wicked associate Beadle Bamford and Sacha Baron Cohen is a rival barber, the flamboyant Signor Adolfo Pirelli.« less
Prior to me watching Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd, I had heard things like this film was pure genius and the best musical ever made. It had been extremely over-hyped and it had nowhere to fall but down prior to me viewing the film. Although, I enjoyed the film and I love almost everything Tim Burton touches it did not blow me away. The thing I enjoyed about this movie the most was the Tim Burton style of the sets and costumes. I just love the way Burton is able to create a world in his movies that is so fantastical yet while you watch the movie it feels like it is a world that exists somewhere.
I do wish this movie dug a little deeper into the character development of the story. For example, I would have loved to see more of the internal struggles that were skimmed over for Helena Bonham Carter's character. Also, with this being a musical I would have liked to have had actor's with a little better singing talent. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are not terrible but let's face it there are definitely better singers. If this was not a musical and they were just actors in a standard movie, I would consider them perfect for their roles but since this is a musical I think there could have been a better casting to include those with a stronger singing talent.
Although I did not love this movie as much as others, I would still recommend this film as one to watch. Just as a warning, there is quite a bit of violence and gore. The gore is over-exaggerated enough to not make it to realistic but this is definitely no Sound of Music.
1 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
Vanessa V. (sevenspiders) Reviewed on 9/9/2008...
Caveat Emptor: If you are looking for a jazzy, upbeat musical, if you're looking for Gene Kelly to tap dance across the screen, if you're looking for lines of chorus girls in sparkly outfits or a plucky, cock-eyed optimist to belt out her troubles, look elsewhere.
Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, a Gothic musical thriller set in 19th Century London, is a tale of revenge, murder, cannibalism, rape, corruption and madness. It's told through Stephen Sondheim's hyper-intelligent, tongue-in-cheek lyrics and Tim Burton's mad-cap and macabre aesthetic. Burton films Sweeney Todd in an over-the-top stylized manner, reminiscent of the German Expressionist horror movies; with mad angles. The London he creates is a bleak, Dickensian cityscape of skeletal buildings and depressing gray skies that rain dark drops of blood. The characters that inhabit such a city are dark and drab to match their surroundings, or brightly flamboyant in colors as lurid as their characters. If such a visual style sounds almost cartoonish, it is; and it works. For a story as dark and morbid as Sweeney Todd, an unworldly aesthetic is needed to keep the world from resembling our own too closely.
The story is simple and dark as a Grimm's fairy tale. Sweeney Todd was banished to prison by a corrupt judge who lusted after Todd’s wife. After twenty years, Todd returns to London to find that his wife is dead and the lecherous judge has adopted his daughter. Bent on revenge, Todd returns to his original home and profession, opening a barbershop in the home of his old neighbor, Mrs. Lovett. But the road to revenge is never straight and when more bodies begin to pile up than were expected, Mrs. Lovett comes up with an ingenious plan to dispose of them and improve her failing meat-pie business at the same time. This grisly tale is told through Sondheim's brilliant songs, sometimes haunting, sometimes hilarious, always memorable. Burton and his cast bring the songs to life remarkably well, particularly Johnny Depp. The slight harshness in Depp's voice conveys the utter despair of the character perfectly. Helena Bonham-Carter is the weakest vocally, but her characterization is superb and outweighs her musical shortcomings.
Sweeney Todd nearly defies classification. No other musical is as grim and macabre; no other musical has such gleefully black humor, and no other musical surpasses its "genre" to be such a haunting story of humanity in an inhumane world.
2 of 4 member(s) found this review helpful.
The Many Facets of Stephen Sondheim's SWEENEY TODD
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 04/03/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When it comes to a work of the musical stage it is difficult to imagine a finer one than Stephen Sondheim's SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET. For those who saw the original 1979 Hal Prince extravagant production starring Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou/George Hearn, and then the 2005 revival as condensed so creatively by John Doyle and re-orchestrated by Sarah Travis who placed the orchestral instruments in the hands of the 10 actors who tell the story of the strange Todd, the Tim Burton (screenplay reduction by Josh Logan) film will only enhance the pleasures of seeing SWEENEY TODD resurrected in yet another form. Each of these incarnations has its riches and together they establish Sondheim's work as a masterpiece.
Johnny Depp makes a convincing Sweeney Todd, in looks and demeanor as well as in singing voice, and Helena Bonham Carter's Mrs. Lovett fits right into Tim Burton's vision of the dark, squalid and seedy London. Timothy Spall is perfect as the oily Beadle, Alan Rickman makes Judge Turpin an understandable villain, Jamie Campbell Bower and Jayne Wisener are suitably infatuated young lovers, and Sacha Baron Cohen and Ed Sanders give top flight cameos as Signor Pirelli and Toby. The one advantage of seeing this fine film on DVD is the option of turning on the subtitles so as not to miss a word of Sondheim's superb lyrics.
For this viewer, however, the most successful version of this 'opera' is the John Doyle production currently on the boards in Los Angeles with Judy Kaye as the most satisfying Mrs. Lovett on record. This uniquely economical and endlessly creative production goes to the core of the work better than any other version, and if this traveling company comes anywhere near your home, go see it! It is the essential SWEENEY TODD and a fine adjunct to seeing the film version again and again. Grady Harp, April 08"
Sondheim's Masterpiece Finally on Film
James Morris | Jackson Heights, NY United States | 12/23/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although critics have been almost unanimous in their praise of this film, many fans of the show are quite harsh in their appraisal, chiefly for two reasons - one, that the principals are not great singers, and two, the deletion of roughly 50% of the score. I surprised myself in that, having purchased the soundtrack and seen the movie, I am in neither camp, as either of these factors might heretofore have caused me to pronounce most film adaptations of almost any Broadway musical a failure. Instead, I am thrilled far beyond my expectations with this production.
It might not have been so, had I not had so much respect for Stephen Sondheim. As part of the pre-release publicity, he has granted an unusual (for him) number of interviews, and says that he is unequivocally satisfied with Tim Burton's vision. As anyone who appreciates his high level of artistic integrity will agree, Mr. Sondheim would not give praise to this project if he were not satisfied with it. At 77, Stephen Sondheim is considered by many to be the greatest composer in the history of the American theatre, and I have followed him long enough to know that no amount of financial consideration could cause him to declare his endorsement if he were not truly happy with the finished film.
I have listened carefully to what Mr. Sondheim has had to say in those recent interviews, and now understand why so many stage musicals previously transferred to celluloid haven't worked. To begin with, time passes very differently in a theatre than it does on film. That which takes several minutes in a Broadway theatre (i.e. a full-blown production number) is apt to seem like a small eternity on screen. Therefore, the very thing that keeps most audiences clamoring for more in live theatre is apt to make many movie audiences run screaming from the auditorium. Then there is the problem of what Alfred Hitchcock once termed "suspension of disbelief"; that is, in real life, no one ever bursts into song during one of life's dramatic moments, no less accompanied by a full orchestra, and many moviegoers who are accustomed to a certain amount of reality therefore find musical films particularly hard to take. Thanks to some of the theories on musical film voiced by Mr. Sondheim in the past week or so, I finally understand why so many previous attempts to film Broadway musicals fall flat - in short, the theatre and film are two entirely different mediums, with two entirely different audiences. Although many theatre lovers, myself included, would be happy to sit through an entire musical transferred to screen exactly as produced on stage, most movie audiences demand something different. And something different is what they surely get with Sweeney Todd.
Then there is the score. Tim Burton has said that he has been a fan of Sweeney Todd since its original run. I believe that, as disappointing as it is for many fans to accept how much of the score has been cut, it was probably even more agonizing for Mr. Burton to decide what pieces to remove. The original ran over three hours, and at least 75% of the story was sung, making Sweeney Todd one of the few genuine operas to ever come out of Broadway. The film runs only 117 minutes and, judging by the length of the soundtrack CD (a mere 72 minutes) easily 40% of the score has been removed, chiefly the ensemble pieces. Mr. Burton apparently judged (probably correctly) that the choral numbers which worked so well on stage, although containing some of the wittiest lyrics, would be clunky and ponderous on film, and he made the prudent (if, I'm sure, difficult) decision to let them go. This is likely to be the sorest point for many fans of the show. And had I not been paying careful attention to Mr. Sondheim's recent interviews, I may not have been able to get past that point myself.
But what has been excised is more than compensated for in Mr. Burton's sumptuous visuals and careful attention to detail. Although Mr. Sondheim has made changes to the lyrics, resolving previously problematic portions of the score and actually improving it, it's amazing how much of what is left of the score is faithful to the original. Though it's a tragic story, Sweeney Todd remains in essence a dark comedy, and many of Mr. Burton's finer touches, especially the staging of the musical numbers, have enhanced the story to the point where I have hardly missed the deletions, and I speak as someone who has loved this piece in almost all of its previous renderings.
And I admit that, although he has never been a particular favorite of mine, Johnny Depp is a revelation. Without detracting from previous interpreters of the role (especially Len Cariou and George Hearn), Mr. Depp's evocation of the character is so fully fleshed out, and so filled with genuine pathos and sympathy, that I was able to immediately excuse the fact that he is not a seasoned vocalist. Besides, to reiterate a point made earlier, this is not Broadway, and there is no need for his voice to reach the back of the house. If anything, the fact that the principal characters are not great singers actually enhances the realistic feel of the film. It is also a pleasure to have both Toby and Anthony (not to mention Joanna) played by actors of the appropriate age, and hear accents that actually invoke pre-Victorian London.
In the end however, the real star (to me, anyway) is the superlative score by Stephen Sondheim. I am not amazed that some feel that there are no "memorable songs" in the score. Good music should be subtle; the absence of "catchy tunes" that one will whistle on the way out of the theatre is only indicative to me of the high quality of the score. Anyone who is previously unfamiliar with Sweeney Todd who doesn't "get it" is urged to purchase the soundtrack (the full version, with the complete libretto included) and follow along with the words and music as the songs are sung. The first thing you will realize is (as with any of Mr. Sondheim's works, whether they be in a film, the theatre, or any other medium) how incredibly witty and sophisticated his lyrics are; on first listen you are apt to miss most of his delicious wit. His use of the English language, his clever rhymes, and above all, his intelligent, deft semantics will amaze anyone who cares to take the time to listen. There are reasons why so many consider Sondheim the foremost composer of the theatre, and so many intelligent theatergoers hang on his every word. But just as important as his words (and I have always admired Sondheim's ability to use words above all else that I treasure in the world of musical theatre), you will find, especially if you listen long and hard enough, that his delicate, subtle music will, in time, work its way into your heart and conscience as some of the most beautiful music ever composed. This is NOT top-forty pop music, the type that is so often mistaken for excellence in theatre these days. In his ballads especially, Sondheim writes genuine, heartfelt gorgeous melodies; that is, real music. Once you open your heart and mind to Sondheim's glorious words and sumptuous airs, you may just become a fan for life. "
Special Collector's Edition Loaded with Extras!
Cubist | United States | 03/31/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"An R rated musical about a vengeful barber who kills his victims only to serve them up as meat pies must've made the studio a little nervous to bankroll a big budget adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's award-winning Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Although, they must've been reassured that Tim Burton would be helming the project with his long-time collaborator Johnny Depp stepping in to play Todd. Burton, with his affinity for all things dark and gothic (see The Nightmare Before Christmas (Special Edition) and Tim Burton's Corpse Bride (Widescreen Edition)), seems like an obvious choice to take on such dark subject matter and Sondheim agreed, giving the filmmaker his blessing.
The first disc has a featurette entitled, "Burton + Depp + Carter = Todd." Tim Burton had always been a fan of Stephen Sondheim's musical and had contemplated a film version for years. Helena Bonham Carter was also a fan and had always wanted to play Mrs. Lovett. Burton liked the idea of her and Depp as this "weird" couple. The director and his leading man talk about their long-standing relationship in this excellent featurette.
The second disc starts off with the "Sweeney Todd Press Conference, November 2007" which features Burton, producer Richard Zanuck and his main cast answering questions from the press. Not surprisingly, Burton and Depp tend to dominate the bulk of the questions. Both men are very charming and joke good naturedly with each other.
"Musical Mayhem: Sondheim's Sweeney Todd" features Sondheim talking about the origins of his take on Sweeney Todd and what drew him to the story. He also talks about how he adapted it into a musical and speaks eloquently about the story and the predominant theme of revenge.
"Sweeney's London" provides historical background to 18th and 19th century London including the social and economical conditions with historians talking about how harsh life was back then. This is fascinating stuff and excellent insight the world that acts as a backdrop to the story.
"The Making of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" takes a look at how the film came together. This is a pretty standard promotional featurette that mixes cast and crew soundbites with clips from the film. It covers a lot of ground already depicted in other featurettes.
"Grand Guignol: A Theatrical Tradition" examines the tradition of Grand Guignol or horror theatre that came out of France. Academic types trace its origins, define its characteristics, and illustrate how Sweeney Todd fits into this tradition.
"Designs for a Demon Barber" takes a look at the costumes and set design. Burton wanted the film to look like Frankenstein (75th Anniversary Edition) (Universal Legacy Series) and resemble a kind of fable look. He explains that this is why he used sets on soundstages as opposed to actual locations.
"A Bloody Business" examines how they did the film's bloody deaths. We see Burton and his crew running tests on how to get the right bloody sprays and experiment with how to pull of the throat slashings.
"Moviefone Unscripted with Tim Burton and Johnny Depp" features the two men asking each other questions submitted by fans. They talk about how they met, how Depp prepared for the role, and so on.
"The Razor's Refrain" is a montage of stills and behind-the-scenes photographs from the film with excerpts of songs from the soundtrack.
Also included is a gallery of production sketches, promotional stills, and behind-the-scenes photos.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer."
Sweeny Todd - Movie, Musical, Masterpiece - You Will Be Surp
Mark | East Coast | 12/30/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barbour of Fleet Street" will surprise a LOT of movie-goers. It's a musical about a London barbour who is wronged and returns home looking for revenge.
I'm usually skeptical of film remakes of musicals. Being a fan of Tim Burton was enough to get me through the door. I am really glad I saw it. This is a very good movie that will satisfy a very wide audience, including those unfamiliar with the original musical as well as it's loyal fans.
DISCLAIMER: Not for younger kids or squeemish adults. This is one R rating that is well deserved.
First and foremost, this movie is worth seeing in the theatres. I expected this version to be even less "musical" than it was. Surprisingly, it is VERY true to the original musical, with almost all the original Steven Sondheim score re-sung by the modern cast. Musically, the songs and score are all well done and add to the theatre experience.
Visually, Sweeney Todd is STUNNING. This version is MUCH BETTER than any other previous version. Tim Burton has created a dark and dingy London that deserves to be nominated for an Oscar for almost every technical category. The black and white backdrop make the bright colors stand out when they are used. Color is used artistically and powerfully, as you'll see. :)
The actors will also attract some die hard fan groups. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter have some very different fan bases, but I think both will be satisfied and surprised by the performances. In fact the whole cast does wonderfully, and the director no doubt had something to do with that.
This is also another movie where I will be looking forward to the HD DVD. Hoping for a wealth of deleted / extended scenes and "making of" featurettes. As for the soundtrack, I plan on buying it today.
Go see this movie. You will buy the DVD. And the soundtrack may be on your shopping list soon too. There's a full version, and a "Highlights" version without the background tracks. Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street Deluxe - Complete Edition Sweeney Todd Soundtrack Highlights
THE GRIMMEST OF FAIRY TALES, BURTON'S VISION OF SONDHEIM'S M
the masked reviewer | Boston, MA | 02/22/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Tim Burton: Hollywood's undisputed champion of gothic horror. Sweeney Todd: a psycho barber and famous purveyor of dodgy pies. Hmmmm... what took you so long?
It was screamingly obvious what a gorgeous team they would make. Rarely have we seen a film director so perfectly matched to a musical. And the black magic begins when Johnny Depp's white-faced Sweeney steals up the Thames at the dead of night. As the boat slips under a spooky London Bridge it becomes quite clear that Burton was put on earth to shoot this glorious melodrama.
The film unfolds like the Grimmest of fairy tales. Depp's bitter Sweeney returns to London after 15 years of hurt. His painful story emerges in hollow songs with haunting off-key melodies. He wears his grievances like armour. His plan to murder the men who condemned him to a penal colony in order to rape his wife hinges around the dismal apartment above Mrs Lovett's ailing pie shop. The atmosphere is vintage Hammer Studios. The gleaming monochrome shots of cobbled streets are drained of color. Effectively overwrought and excellent, Sweeney Todd is a movie of bombastic, impossible camera moves and rhapsodic yuckiness. Burton can't resist filling the screen with scuttling vermin or surges of splatterific violence.
Depp's Sweeney is a fiery-eyed, razor-brandishing cadaver with a mad Pagliacci glare. Bonham Carter is comparably corpse-like--a matched composition in bird-nest hairdo, death-pallor complexion, and heavily shadowed eyes. The musical chemistry between Depp and Helena Bonham Carter's genial cockney pie shop mistress is terrific. Sondheim approved the casting, and, surprisingly, Depp has a pleasing, if untrained, tenor. Alongside Bonham Carter's sweetly tentative voice, the numbers are inventively staged. Especially the cannibal waltz "A Little Priest" and the grotesquely wistful "By the Sea". Lovett's unreciprocated passion for Sweeney is the heart of the film and her bright idea of stuffing Sweeney's clients into meat pies seems almost perfectly sensible under the circumstances.
The film's pace is a surprise. Burton has pruned Sondheim's arias to fit the tempo of a real thriller -- brilliant editing - and the villains are far less stocky. Yes, the ghoulishly attractive couple is supported by a suitable gang of gargoyles; Sacha Baron Cohen delivers a priceless cameo as a jealous unisex rival with plans to blackmail Sweeney. Alan Rickman is a sinister pleasure as Judge Turpin. And Timothy Spall is equally effective as his ultra-violent slithery enforcer, Beadle Bamford.
Burton has never been one to spare the gore. The sound of skulls cracking open when Sweeney tosses his victims head first into the basement is not for the faint-of-heart. The director's knack of finding comedy in these ghastly scenes is tested to the limit. And the haunting final shot of the film, the details of which we must keep to ourselves so not to spoil the plot, is a masterful shot, painterly in its composition of framing, detail, and color.
There is so much that can be said about Sweeney Todd, but we must insist that you stop reading and simply experience this wonderous film for yourself. A mad serial killer, a helpful, adoring woman, a vile judge, and a barber's chair - all elements that combine to form much more than this simple review can encapsulate. It is masterful cinema, art and entertainment, vision and sound combined for a truly riveting experience."