Blood, blood, music and blood
Tim Burton gave us one of the best musicals of the 90s when he created “A Nightmare Before Christmas,” so I knew the music would be good before I ever started watching “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”
What I didn’t know was this: I was about to watch one of the bloodiest I’d ever seen. I mean, about half way through the movie, the blood starts pouring out as the demonic barber, played amazingly by Johnny Depp, busts open necks with his switchblade like he was bashing pinatas (“The closest shave I ever gave“).
It’s so over the top, it becomes comical. And you can’t really be grossed out by throat slashing murders when they’re set to such great music.
The plot goes as such: Todd comes back to London 15 years after an evil judge sent him to prison for a crime he did not commit only so he could be near his beautiful wife. Todd, known back then as Benjamin Barker, and his wife also have a daughter, who’s a beautiful young woman when he returns and becomes the love interest of the young sailor who brought Todd back.
The barber, unrecognizable now with the Burton-esque black rings under his eyes and black and white hair, sets up shop above a struggling meat pie store run by Mrs. Lovett, played by Burton’s wife, Helena Bonham Carter. Lovett soon learns of Todd’s plot for revenge, and to help cover up his blood lust, she begins using the “remains” of Todd’s victims for her meat pies … and suddenly, business booms.
It’s not a movie for the squeamish or the young, but the murders do become cartoonish, and I didn’t find the film to be “scary” as others have written. If you liked “Nightmare Before Christmas” or other Burton-Depp ventures like “Edward Scissorhands” and “Sleepy Hollow,” then you’ll like this. The supporting cast — Alan Rickman as the judge, Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat) as a conniving Italian barber conman and the young Ed Sanders as Mrs. Lovett’s errand boy — not only sing, but sing well and do a great job of flowing the acting and singing to a point you can’t tell there’s a difference.
There are only a few points in the movie where the film lags, and the killing does get tiresome toward the end. A few characters are almost forgotten (Todd’s daughter and the sailor become an afterthought) … and for all the happiness and humor the movie does manage, the ending is … well … I won’t give anything away.
Overall, I recommend “Todd” for those who like a good musical or anybody who’s a fan of Tim Burton. I don’t recommend it for those who are squeamish at the sight of blood, no matter how “fake” it’s made to look.
Sweeney Todd: *** 1/2 out of 5 stars