Sweeney Todd is the bloodiest movie of the year, and it lacks subtlety in other categories as well. You can see why Tim Burton, maker of Gothic cartoons, was drawn to this Gothic cartoon opera. A revenge tale in the Guignol tradition of Titus Andronicus, Sweeney Todd tells the story of Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp), a barber whose wife and child were maneuvered from him by an evil magistrate (Alan Rickman). Barker returns to London, dubs himself Sweeney Todd and, with the help of a woman who bakes meat pies, establishes a new barber shop in which to enact grisly revenge on people who have wronged him and people who haven’t. There’s also a subplot about a young sailor who’s in love with Barker’s daughter that the movie never takes seriously.
Altogether, it’s a straight-forward story whose only twists can be seen coming miles away. I was bored by it, and I was far from blown away by the Sondheim music. My favorite number, “By the Sea,” is sung by the cast’s weakest singer, Helena Bonham Carter. Johnny Depp has a surprisingly good singing voice, even if it is identical to his Captain Jack voice at times. With the exception of “By the Sea”, Burton has very little imagination in the musical numbers, which mostly repeat the same angles and shots, leaving it to feel much like a recorded stage version I once fell asleep to.
This movie Sweeney is hours shorter, but I almost fell asleep here too. Not my cup of tea, and certainly not my meat pie.
MORE: Making of featurette