movies: sweeney todd

sweeney todd - never forget, never forgiveI sometimes wonder if the Walt Disney Corporation ruined my possible appreciation of a vast number of "modern" musicals. In the Disney Universe you have dialogue and some plot, then you get a song that advances the story somehow, then you get back to dialogue, then song, dialogue, song... what you don't get is that weird blending where people are singing things they really should be speaking.

I was a little apprehensive when Sweeney Todd started... it seemed to be going down the Phantom of the Opera route (a movie I HATE with every fibre of my being, and which had me wanting to walk out within the first five minutes... the only reason I didn't was that I was with Ma and all the shops were shut, otherwise I would have left her there and gone shopping... hated, hated, hated, hated, hated Phantom with the fiery vengeance of a thousand suns!)... and we had some singing that should have been speaking...

And because it followed a somewhat sketchy CGI title sequence I was holding my breath and waiting for the movie to possibly suck spectacularly. Maybe it's Tim Burton and musicals... I was slightly disappointed in The Corpse Bride to some degree... or maybe it is the Disney legacy thing, I honestly don't know...

But then it improved... and got funny and a little gory and bit twisted... and by the end I was pleasantly surprised.

Of course there were definite up sides... specifically Jamie Campbell Bower who runs around being all gorgeous and doe eyed and slightly docile (all those things I find incredibly appealing)... but who seems to only have the one song through the whole movie (there's a little bit of sung spoken at the start, but that's about it), although they do keep changing his lyrics. Even when he's all mussed up and bloody and dirty, he's still gorgeous... and there's a moment where he's highly Bambi in the headlights that appealed to me maybe a little too much (yeah, I know, I'm twisted... this isn't news to anyone).

As for the rest of the cast, my ongoing love affair with Helena Bonham Carter continues... actually, I think she makes the movie what it is... or her character does anyway... she adds that slightly crazed comedy she seems to be quite good at, and it balances nicely against Johnny Depp's rather single minded titular character. Actually I think this is the first one of Johnny's characters for a long, long time that I didn't instantly love... I mean he's very good, but the character isn't overly that appealing or engaging for the most part... he's more distant and disengaged from everything around him, which makes him somewhat hard to connect with. Visually fantastic, but somewhat remote.

And I hate to say it, but Borat/Ali G star Sacha Baron Cohen (who I would usually run a mile from) is actually perfectly cast as Signor Pirelli. Slightly over the top, but that's what the character called for.

I was also a little disturbed to find a very grey and stubbled Alan Rickman slightly sexy... I think it's all about the stubble to be honest... or maybe the stubble and the period costume... there was something going on there. Weird, but kinda hot. Which freaks me out just a little bit I have to say.

While I don't want to go through the entire cast list one by one, I also have to mention young Ed Sanders for his very strong performance. He doesn't seem to have done anything before (nothing movie or teevee-wise anyway... maybe he's done a bunch of theatre work), but he's very, very good for his age, and manages to hold his own next to Helena quite well.

Just going back to the costumes for a second... the Tim Burton/Colleen Atwood collaboration continues for the seventh time, and she does a fantastic job once again... just the layers and the fabrics in Johnny's costume are fantastic... not to mention the corsets and lacings and whatnot on Helena's outfits.

Interestingly enough, on the special features of Tim's remake of Planet of the Apes somebody (I think it was make-up wizard Rick Baker) describes the "Tim Burton look"... white skin, dark circles around the eyes, sticky-upy hair... and that's pretty much the look for Johnny and Helena have in this movie... at the beginning it's a little bit distracting, especially when they get very up close and personal in their first scene/song together, but like with all of those things, you get used to it, and by the end of the movie you don't really even notice it any more.

Since the movie is about a barber who cuts people's throats, it's possibly a little bit on the bloody and gory side... well, I didn't really think so, but I always know when Ma has to watch bits of the movie with her face behind her hand that it's maybe a little much. I would say it's actually more artful than gory myself... the blood is VERY bright scarlet and since the majority of the movie has a somewhat muted pallet of colours, it does tend to stand out. I did wonder how they did the effect of the slit throats though... whether it was make-up or partial make-up with some CGI or what I don't know... but I'd be interested to find out.

It's also the first musical movie I've seen in a very long while that I wouldn't mind getting hold of the soundtrack for. Maybe because it's a black comedy, but there are a few songs I really liked... The Worst Pies in London, Ladies in Their Sensitivities, A Little Priest, God That's Good and By the Sea off the top of my head... although because there were a few songs where two characters were singing counterpoint to each other, I did miss some of the lyrics on some of them, so I wouldn't mind hearing it all again, just for that reason alone.

So while the movie didn't start off particularly strongly in my opinion, by the end I was very much enjoying myself.

yani's rating: 3 meat pies out of 5


david l. said...

i absolutely loved this movie! i was a little bit skeptical with johnny depp being cast as the lead (although he is a fantastic actor) because, as far as i'm aware, he didn't have any of the prior vocal training needed for his role. but he executed the role surprisingly well. although you were right when you said that he was a bit detached. i also though he wasn't as maniacal as i would have thought of a barber that slits his customers throats.

yani said...

Actually while he's not overly known as a singer, Johnny has had previous singing experience... he even dropped out of school in the hopes of becoming a rock star and was in a bunch of garage bands.

I can see what you mean about the maniacal thing... but he wasn't the "killing because it's enjoyable" type... he was the "killing because nobody matters, so why not" type... ;)


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