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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Release Date: 
12/21/2007
Rated: 
MPAA: R
Star Rating: 
7 out of 10
This ain't your grandmother's Broadway musical. So many necks are slit open with widescreen Technicolor blood spewing forth that you might be forgiven for thinking you may have wandered into Saw 5 rather than a film version of a Stephen Sondheim show. Leave it to director Tim Burton, who brings his own deeply darkened brand of debauchery and Grand Guignol to the proceedings. It certainly helps that he's also got his Edward Scissorhands star and frequent collaborator Johnny Depp on hand for the title role as the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, a man wrongly imprisoned who decides to take it out on society when he is released. He reopens his London barbershop, where he specializes in "close shaves." With the help of Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), his comrade in arms—and legs, fingers, feet, and other body parts—he serves up the best pies in London. That's right, this is still a musical with its soaring Sondheim themes, which are capably sung by a cast not really known for its musical prowess. Depp is truly possessed in the role. His mesmerizing performance cuts like a knife. And he can sing, too, sounding a lot like David Bowie. The fact that he isn't a trained musician makes his Sweeney Todd more realistic than previous incarnations. It is still odd to see him crooning about "pretty women" while killing his unsuspecting prey and turning them into someone's dessert. That it works at all is a tribute to the vision of Burton, who proves that he and Sweeney Todd are a match made in heaven—or maybe, hell. It really is as sick and as great as any movie he has ever made, a diabolically dark and vastly satisfying feast set in a chamber of horrors that will haunt your dreams, if not turn your stomach. Sweeney Todd is unparalleled visual splendor, a bloody red-velvet fever dream of a musical for people who think they hate musicals.