When I recently secured a spot for a screening of Tim Burton’s new film Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, I was elated to have the chance to see a Burton film before the masses.
See, I have been a huge Burton fan ever since I saw The Nightmare Before Christmas. And the trailers for Sweeney Todd looked as dark as ever, which is what I love about Burton’s projects. Then the day of the screening, I heard the film was nominated for four Golden Globes. This moved my excitement to the next level.
The theater was packed and people cheered before the film even started. But the ending of the film elicited much less enthusiasm. Not to say that the movie was bad, because in my opinion it was solid. This is just not a common crowd pleaser. Which leads me to my prediction for this movie: it will suffer in the theaters. The first week or two will be strong, but once enough people have seen it and talked about what kind of film it is, numbers will drop drastically.
To make one thing clear, the directing and the look of the film are classic Burton. Translation: the look and the feel are perfectly dark. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter deliver more than solid acting performances. But, with the content of Sweeney Todd being almost all musical, disappointment in the singing abilities of the two leads is bound to surface. A few songs featuring lesser-known actors such as Jamie Campbell Bower, Jayne Wisener and Ed Sanders bring back a real satisfying feel of what this musical project could have been with more strong singing talent.
For those of you that did not know, or were not told, this film is based on a musical of the same name that portrays a wrongfully punished protagonist, Benjamin Barker, who turns to a life of darkness and psychosis in his search for revenge upon those who have wronged him. He pairs up with a failing pastry chef, Mrs. Lovett, to open and run his own barbershop where he gives customers “the closest shave you’ve ever had.”
The dead bodies become a problem and, without giving anything away, they come up with a creative way of disposing of them.
The main bad guys in the film are Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) and Beadle Bamford (Timothy Spall). In my opinion this evil duo stole the show. Their ability to portray such pompous and downright awful human beings jumped to the forefront of the entire movie and had me leaving talking about their performances over those of Depp and Carter.
In my opinion Sweeney Todd shaves out a B rating. The look and the feel of the film were spot on for a Burton film, but the content is something more appropriate for Broadway.
My only other big complaint was the use of blood that looked more like paint with an orange tint to it. But in that same vein, what they did do with the blood was pleasing for someone like myself who likes to see a little splatter on the screen.
This thick viscous liquid also plays a big role in the final moment of the movie, which was extremely well shot and became the brightest cinematic point of the entire flick.
Interesting review, Carlin.
I used to be a big Burton fan (until Sleepy Hollow, that is), and when I heard he was making Sweeney, I got quite nervous. I really love the original musical, and the idea of nonsingers being cast bothered me (even though I’ve been a Johnny fan since 21 Jump Street). It’s Sondheim, and Sondheim is notoriously difficult to sing. Nonsingers can’t really sing Sondheim well. Well done, the music to Sweeney is amazing and chilling. It’s operatic. Remember, the part of Mrs. Lovett was originated by Angela Landsbury, and I doubt Bonham Carter can come close to that presence.
I think I’ve enjoyed every Burton movie I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot, even Sleepy Hollow, so I’m anticipating the release of Sweeney Todd. I grew up on musicals, and I think the best thing in a situation where the lead actors are not known for their singing is to go into the movie with this in mind. This very tactic allowed me to enjoy Moulin Rouge (if you remember Ewan and Nicole straining thier vocals). While it may have trouble in the box office, I imagine the film will gain it’s own cult following. I think it’s great to see a musical in the theatre again. Thanks for the review!
I’m afraid I have to step in and put an end to the love fest.
Pee Wees Big Adventure, Nightmare Before Christmas, Ed Wood-Great
Edward Scissorhands- Tolerable, hasn’t aged well
Planet of the Apes-Garbage
Sleepy Hollow-Crap crap garbage crap trash
Tim Burton strikes me as a guy who sold his soul to the system and now is Hollywood’s pet weirdo director. He also apparently hasnt had an original idea in his head for 10 years.
IMHO, of course.
This is me, booing and hissing from the back of the theater(you won’t bait me into spelling it “t-h-e-a-t-r-e”, either, it’s a theater), kicking the back of your seat, and answering calls on my cell phone. Musicals bite the bag! Who sings at each other instead of talking , for hell’s sake?
“Woulllllld you like friiiiiies with thaaaaaat?”
“Suuuuuuuuper Sizzze it, maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!”
Wouldn’t catch Chuck Norris doing a reprise of “Paint Your Wagon.”
You’ll never see Tom Hanks crooning “the Rain in Spain” with Paris Hilton as Eliza Doolittle.
Bruce Willis is “John McClane”, not “Curly McLain” (There’s your 6 degrees of separation! Alan Rickman played the villain “Hans Gruber” in the original Die Hard! But I digress).
MOVIES GOOD, MUSICALS BAD.
Look at that Josh, we both think Tim Burton is a hack!
OK, I gotta put another word in about that Helena Bonham Carter hussy. Way back when, Burton was tied to a strangely beautiful woman named Lisa Marie. She was his muse (she looked just like Sally). She played small parts in his films — if you’ll recall, it was Catherine O’Hara who voiced Sally. It was all very sweet.
Then Burton makes that gawdawful Planet of the Apes, and meets HBC (the pregnant chick in Howard’s End). He leaves Lisa Marie for her. And now, guess what? She’s the STAR of all his movies now, even if she’s grossly miscast. Must be nice.
I do agree with Josh about Burton selling out to the system, that has become apparent. I will say though that I liked Sleepy Hollow. I can’t help it. For Sweeney Todd, I think they had to know that it will not end up doing very well in the theaters, but let it happen anyway just because there are certain directors that are allowed to do whatever they want, like Burton. Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez are two others. Do you really think they thought Grindhouse would do well in the theaters? No way. But they let it happen because of the directors. FYI, I loved Grindhouse.
Grindhouse was Tarantino and Rodriguez making a movie(s) that they wanted to see, public be damned. Not a “grand vision”, or “cutting edge film making.” Just self-indulgent crapola.
Never trust ANYONE who must be referred to by their FULL name. John Wayne Gacy, Lee Harvey Oswald, Helena Bonham Carter,Terrence Trent D’Arby (does that translate from French into “Terrence Trent of Arby’s? I love their sandwiches) O. J. Simpson (maybe a bit of a stretch)….
Dell – That was classic. Thank you.
Everyone else – I went into Sleepy Hollow really, really wanting to love it. I really like the Irving story – I’ve even been to the town to pay homage. However, it fell very flat with me. Not even the Christopher Lee cameo could save it. Sleepy Hollow seemed disingenuous and barely able to hold itself together. Mars Attacks had been rough around the edges, but it was fun. I thought Sleepy Hollow was boring and uncomfortable with itself. Throughout the movie, I kept trying to enjoy it, but the ending shot it all to hell.
I think that Burton might be an interesting aesthetician, but maybe not a good director. The movie that can be said to define Burton is Nightmare Before Christmas — which he pretty much designed, but check the box — he didn’t direct.
I forgot Billy Ray Cyrus, and David Lee Roth!! Daniel Day Lewis? Evil. Pure evil.
I see Tim Burton as one of those guys who knew they were cool, because their mom told them they were. Just like Tarantino and Rodriguez, the movies he makes are probably all masterworks (because their moms liked them).
Full disclosure, I did like “Pulp Fiction.”
“Go get the GIMP!!!”