Thursday, December 20, 2007

Gushing with the Burton Family Holiday Cheer

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Release: 12/21/2007
Rated R
1 hour, 56 minutes


Open on an optimistic young sailor putting into port in London. Enter the dark passenger Sweeney Todd, portrayed by Johnny Depp (*Sleepy Hollow), who quickly extols the true virtues of the big city through a musical rendition of his tragic past. He finds refuge with a Ms. Lovett, played by Helena Bonham Carter (Big Fish), above her meat pie shop, who tells him what has happened to his beloved family during his long absence. Filled with wrath, he sets about seeking revenge on the man who destroyed his life and love, Judge Turpin, played by Alan Rickman (Die Hard).

In a season of bright lights and colorful decorations, it’s nice to know there’s a guy like Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands) around; a director ready to darken the mood and remind us why we should be thankful. “Sweeney Todd” reeks of Burton’s familiar visual style; he has a way of utilizing black and gray tones to an almost vibrant effect (the zigzag stripes and occasional splashes of color help).

I am not familiar with the Stephen Sondheim musical so I’m unclear what influence, if any, writer John Logan (Gladiator) had in establishing this story. The tale of the Demon Barber is told almost entirely through verse, with only a scant amount of non-musical dialogue. The lyrics are clever and cheerfully twisted. The actors’ songs are easy on the ears though I don’t foresee any Grammy nominations for their renditions. Singing aside, Depp is absolutely devoid of redeeming qualities and perverse in the satisfaction attained from his trade. However, its Carter’s twisted portrayal that will leave audiences truly disturbed.

Dirty Undies
Watching the first twenty minutes of Sweeney Todd, it’s obvious to see Burton’s love for Carter lies within the depths of her bosom. Admittedly, she has a certain look about her that makes me want to believe that necrophilia is acceptable, at least in the Burton household. Seriously, you’ve got to admit Helena Bonham Carter and the Living Dead Dolls line were separated at birth:

Aside from Carter’s cleavage, the big draw of “Sweeney Todd” is the reunion of Todd to his beloved friends, the razors. Watching his blades connect with victim after victim, jets of bright red juice spewing from jugulars, heightened by the pulsing score, is thrilling. For an added touch of sweet brutality audiences get the bone-crunching thud of the barber chair ejections with each fatality.

The Money Shot
This holiday season, Burton and the Warner Brothers shield deliver a darkly fun, visually stimulating film that’s also a musical, and it’s drenched in blood. It is a big three-for-three for me to see it, but you will have to decide if the Demon Barber offers up the right trimmings for your holiday spirit.

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  1. That was a good line or verse. I checked out your ST write-up and totally agree with your Top 5 Burton films. Big Fish is by far his greatest achievement. Though I do enjoy Ed Wood. Landau has one of the best moments ever - "Let's shoot this fucker!"