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SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET
2007
Written by John Logan & Stephen Sondheim and directed by Tim Burton
119 Minutes
Rated R for for graphic bloody violence.

Reviewing popular, mainstream films is something I'm trying really hard to avoid here. You can get a review of Sweeney Todd from just about anywhere. I figure if Roger Ebert and James Berardinelli have weighed in on it, I should probably leave it alone. Especially if I have nothing new to say about it.

And I really don't. So why am I writing a review of it? Well, I hate musicals, so I figure that gives me a fresh perspective on it. I love horror but I hate musicals, so I'm pretty split here; the only musical I will watch more than once is Takashi Miike's Happiness of the Katakuris because frankly...it's got zombies and a fat guy. I mean I'm pretty much good there. But if you don't like musicals, Sweeney Todd isn't going to convert you. In terms of the form of a musical, it's as by the book as they come; the invention is in the story and style, not the form.

If you're like me and you've been lamenting how Tim Burton jumped the shark with Planet of the Apes and never quite got his groove back (Corpse Bride was an awful movie and you know it), you'll be stoked as hell with Sweeney Todd. Burton is in top form here, up to the same kind of game that fueled his fantastic early work. His visual style is so aggressively perfectly done here, and his play on color, light and shadow is fantastic. You really wouldn't need a director's credit on this to know who was responsible for it.

And, true to Burton form, the plot suffers a bit. Whenever the movie drifts to Todd's daughter Johanna and her suitor, it immediately drags and lulls. Alan Rickman is a fantastic actor, but here he's channelling Hans Gruber more than anything else, and he's shamefully underused. The fact is that the movie sort of suffers for being a musical: the movie may be two hours long, but there's only an hour of plot. The rest is taken up with musical numbers. The irony about a lot of bad movies is that oftentimes they're helped with healthy extensions to the running time (Battle Royale II: Revenge is a terrific example of this phenomenon), and Sweeney Todd really could've benefited from another half hour or hour and a more fleshed out story. It's very hard to fault the performances in the film as being one note when they aren't given any material that really deviates from that note. You, like me, may find the film curiously empty.

The musical numbers, however, have a lot of life to them. While some of them ("Pretty Women" being a great example) can go straight to hell, other ones, like "The Worst Pies in London," are pretty damn awesome and fun to watch even if you hate musicals. The "dream sequence" that starts with Todd and Mrs. Lovett at a picnic is probably the highlight of the movie, infused with such an incredible amount of irony and mirth that it just overshadows the crap out of the rest of the film for me. Seeing Depp's Todd scowl through the entire upbeat musical number fucking killed, and his bathing suit is priceless; it's the kind of humor that reminds you of Burton's earlier stuff, especially my personal favorite Burton film, Beetlejuice.

It may seem like I've ragged on the film a bit, but honestly, it really is a pretty entertaining film, and if you like musicals it'll probably blow your fucking mind. Unfortunately, if you don't like musicals, it's not going to do much to change your mind and indeed, may even put you to sleep in parts.

I do want to make special note of the actor who played Anthony, one Jamie Michael Bower. If I never see this fuckstick again as long as I live it will be too soon. His character in the movie is a little bitch, and I just have to ask what the hell the deal is with effeminate men in pop culture lately. This guy gets to sit on top of my hate list next to Orlando Bloom, who will never be able to look masculine a day in his life. Between these guys, and the bitchy-voiced men in popular music today, I really have to wonder whatever happened to masculinity.

Oh, and if you like musicals, go see Sweeney Todd.

- Dustin Sklavos

All written content and colored rating system copyright Dustin Sklavos 2009. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.