Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street


Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by:John Logan
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jamie Bowerr
Released: January 24, 2008
Grade: B+

Sweeney Todd has received a lot of good reviews and its fair share of rewards to date.  Its highest honour was winning the best comedy or musical film category at the recent Golden Globe Awards.  Maybe I’ve fallen victim to over-hype because yes, I did like the film but no, I didn’t love the film.

Many years ago, Benjamin Barker (Depp) lived a wonderful life.  He was married to a beautiful woman and together, they had a lovely young daughter.  He also had a reputation as being the finest barber in London.  His success would be short-lived.  The powerful Judge Turpin (Rickman) wanted Barker’s wife as his own.  Turpin framed Barker for a crime he didn’t commit and gave him a lengthy sentence behind bars.

Now, 15 years later, Benjamin Barker has been released from prison.  He is a changed man, both by name and by nature.  Going by the name Sweeney Todd, he seeks news of what became of his wife and child.  He learns all he needs to know from Mrs. Lovett (Carter), the lady who now resides in his old home in Fleet Street.  His wife passed away and his daughter has been raised by Judge Turpin.  Turpin never lets her out of the house for fear that she will meet another man and fall in love.

Sweeney Todd is out for revenge.  He wants his daughter back and wants Turpin punished for his actions.  He rents the vacant loft above Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop and re-establishes his barber shop.  Having created some good publicity, Todd knows that the customers will come.  How could they resist the opportunity to receive “the closest shave in London”?  It’s only a matter of time before Judge Turpin himself takes up the offer.  Todd’s razor sharp blades are waiting…

The advertising for the film has been a little misleading in that some viewers don’t realise this is a musical.  It’s based on the Tony Award winning musical written by Stephen Sondheim which debuted on Broadway back in 1979.  It’s hard to imagine Johnny Depp actually singing in a movie but he does a great job.  His voice is rough and raspy but he hits the right notes.

Johnny Depp and director Tim Burton have worked on a lot of films together.  Few partnerships in Hollywood have been as successful.  Their creations include Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, Sleepy Hollow, Ed Wood and Edward ScissorhandsSweeney Todd is typical of them both in that it is unconventional.  Don’t think this is a light-hearted musical in the same realm as last year’s Hairspray.  This film is dark, creepy and violent.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a musical with so much blood.

My negativity towards the film relates to the story as opposed to the quality acting and direction.  I haven’t seen a theatrical version of Sweeney Todd before but I always knew where the story was going.  I was hoping for a few more unexpected twists and turns.  The middle section of the film was too drawn out and the final act felt too rushed.  After waiting so long for a big finish, I could believe how quickly the film ended.

Depp has earned an Academy Award nomination for his role but the film was overlooked in most categories.  Its other nominations are for best costume design and best art direction.  Lovers of this film (and there are plenty of them) will be outraged that the film has received such little recognition from the Academy.  I’m not too fussed.