Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog


Sweeney Todd

After watching this movie, I'm thinking that the folks in Sweeney's chair were grateful when he slit their throats so they wouldn't have to listen to anymore of Depp's singing.

OK, cheap shot, I admit it. Besides, as one of the folks I went to see the movie with remarked, do you really want a maniacal barber to have a lovely singing voice?

A few things you need to understand before going to see Sweeney:

First,he's not a nice man. In fact, there's not really a nice man in the movie. For some reason, it's become popular to write plays, musicals,and movies without a protagonist. As a simple minded sort, I like to have somebody in the movie I care about; otherwise I don't care about what happens to them at all. I'm not engaged.

Second, it's more an operetta than a musical. When you think of a musical,you think of a story moved along by the occasional song. Sweeney Todd is the opposite, a long musical number interrupted by bits of dialog. This isn't a bad thing, just something to be aware of.

Third, it's dark, which fits a movie about obsession and revenge. The colors are all washed out, with the exception of blood, and the yellow hair of Johanna. It reminded me of an earlier Johnny Depp, movie,From Hell in it's relentlessly accurate portrayal of the quality of life in London at the turn of the century. Most folks take clean modern cities for granted; it would be nice if they realized the level of technology it takes to support hundreds of thousands of people in a few square miles and not have them wallowing in their own filth. Unfortunately, that light takes a long time to dawn.

Fourth, for those of you unhappy with the fate of the dog in I am Legend I just want to point out that the shepherd in Mrs. Lovett's shepherd pies is purely of the human variety, so rest easy on that score.

With the above out of the way, Sweeney Todd is an excellently crafted, well presented tale of revenge leading to madness and tragedy. I hesitate to call it entertaining, just as I would hesitate to call a public execution entertaining, but both hold that same squeamish fascination. However, unlike Saw and Hostel where the exploitation of our own sick voyeurism is it's only reward, Sweeney Todd uses it to force us to look at ourselves. While none of us, I hope, has resorted to the measures Mr. Todd chose, we have all harbored a grudge far longer and with more intensity than the offense actually warranted. In that way,we can all identify to a certain extent with Mr. Todd. While we never like or admire him, we might just recognize a bit of him in our own hearts.

Johnny Depp does a wonderful job with Sweeney, including singing the part. I do admit that there were times I expected to see him drop into Captain Jack Sparrow a few times, he never did, maintaining the malevolent madness of Sweeney throughout. I was bothered by his hairdo, however. Would you let a guy who looked like that anywhere near your hair? Sasha Baron Cohen was a jarring note in an otherwise well cast movie. Yes, he's talented. He's also annoying. Helena Bonham Carter was effective as Mrs. Lovett, baker of the worst meat pies in London, and would be lover of Sweeney Todd. It was interesting to see her, Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall all together again. I kept waiting for Ron Weasley to sit down in Sweeney's chair or for Harry to stop by for a meat pie.

The main reason I liked this movie is it stayed faithful to the source material. There was no happy ending grafted on to make Hollywood happy. Sweeney didn't go off into the sunset with Mrs. Lovett to raise the little boy as their own son. He dies, she dies, everybody dies.

Which fits this story to a T.
Posted by Rich
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