Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Scott Hardie: “It was ok.”
Len Cariou and Angela Lansbury they ain't. Burton regulars Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter can't sing with the intensity of the stage production, nor portray the heights of madness they should. Depp in particular made a fatal acting choice when he decided Todd should be distant and stoic, when instead Depp should ham for the camera as a raging, wide-eyed lunatic – it would be vastly more entertaining, it would be in the spirit of the show, and if Depp has a problem with that kind of performance (as I expect he does), then he's the wrong man for the role.
The result of this poor casting is a film made by people who like Sweeney Todd very much but aren't the right folks to pull it off. It's a curiously muted and purposeless movie, with little macabre fun to be had, and little sympathy for the devilish protagonists. To its credit, it looks great, rendering mid-1800s London with Burton's typical Impressionist flair, with terrific costumes by Colleen Atwood. Depp's makeup suggests a man who never sleeps, and before long you realize that his loft is designed without a bedroom. The supporting actors are generally good, especially Ed Sanders as the boy Toby, who might be a better singer than any of the adults around him. But there's a much better film to be made of this musical by people who understand it better.
Kris Weberg: How odd that Depp would turn in an underplayed Sweeney Todd after his turns as the deliriously over-the-top Jack Sparrow and the manic CIA agent he portrayed in Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Ditto Helena Bonham Carter: would anyone call her performances in Fight Club or the most recent Harry Potter restrained?
Depp did make some rather poor acting choices the last time he worked with Tim Burton, and Burton has directed a few other rather flat and underplayed performances in films like Batman, whereMichael Keaton's twitchiness was the highest level of energy the superhero managed to get onto the screen.
I'm inclined to blame the director here; Burton does tend to get caught up in his spectacular set designs and use his actors as complements to the scenery sometimes. − January 2, 2008 more by Kris
Amy Austin: How odd that Depp would turn in an underplayed Sweeney Todd after his turns as the deliriously over-the-top Jack Sparrow...
I thought the same thing, actually -- but, as someone who was pretty wholly unfamiliar with the stage production (I knew of its titular existence and imagined it to be something quite like the Rocky Horror Picture Show, actually... but that fleeting familiarity was completely forgotten up until a certain point in the movie theater -- the singing, I think -- when I said, "ohhh... I think this was a Broadway thing" -- heh), I'm glad that I didn't have any set expectations for it. It was your typical Tim Burton film, and I was entertained while quietly suspecting that there might ought to be "more". Overall, I'd have to concur with Scott's rating of "it was ok". ;-) − January 3, 2008 more by Amy