a sybarite in paradise
reviewing the food & entertainment pleasures of Honolulu
I can’t remember anticipating a movie more than Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. It premiered as a musical on Broadway during my college years as a theatre student. One of our professors got a pirated copy of the cast album and played it for us. It quickly became my most favorite musical. I’ve listened to the album hundreds of times to enjoy Stephen Sondheim’s incredible music and lyrics. So, I had to go to the movie on opening day last Friday.
This is a delicious bloodbath of a musical. I’m usually queazy during bloody scenes, but they’re so over the top that they didn’t bother me. Gallons and gallons of bright red blood are spewed in every direction. However, the story takes quite a while to get to the bloodbath. There’s lots of fun and intrigue along the way.
The acting is strong throughout the cast. Johnny Depp is menacing as the title character. Helena Bonham Carter is wonderfully evil as Mrs. Lovett. Alan Rickman is equally good as Judge Turpin. Sacha Baron Cohen is almost unrecognizable as Singor Adolfo Pirelli.
As far as the singing goes, I’ll come right out and say what most won’t, Helena Bonham Carter cannot sing. It was painful to hear her obliterate Sonheim’s masterpiece. Gee, do you think having the director as a boyfriend got her this role? Johnny Depp’s signing was at least serviceable and he hit his notes, if not with much strength or depth. My main problem with him is that he’s a tenor and lacks the menace that a bass-baritone brings to the singing of this role. The rest of the cast sings very well. Ed Sanders as Toby is amazing, both in his acting and singing. Keep an eye on this kid. His rendition of “Not While I’m Around” brought a tear to my eye.
Tim Burton’s direction and entire look of the movie is terrific. It’s a gritty, dim and not quite photo realistic London that is a major player in the film. It will certainly be nominated for Best Art Direction for the Oscars.
If you love this musical, you’re going to love the film with reservations. Most everything is spot on and I didn’t even care about the missing songs. I just wish they would have gotten someone to sing for Carter. Movie musicals used to do that all the time. Marni Nixon sang for dozens and dozens of stars that weren’t up to singing their roles. Ah, the old days.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Sweeney Todd, 
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street