Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (R)

Drama 116 December 21, 2007
By Scott Foundas
Tim Burton has taken Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's grand guignol operetta, hemmed in the narrative, cast confessed nonsingers in the principal roles, and somehow managed to produce something magical — the first of the new-millennium Hollywood musicals to succeed both musically and cinematically. Burton breathes new life into the genre by dousing it in buckets of blood. Nothing about the world of Sweeney Todd will exactly surprise connoisseurs of Burtonia — the elaborate (and partly CGI) sets could well have been constructed with odds and ends from Sleepy Hollow, and the casting has more than a touch of the familiar to it. As the lovelorn baker Mrs. Lovett, Helena Bonham Carter is so animated, you'd be forgiven for mistaking her for her stop-motion surrogate from Burton's 2005 Corpse Bride. As for Johnny Depp as the vengeance-seeking title character, well, it's not the first time he has played a social misfit with shiny metal at the end of his upper extremities. As was the case for the Coen brothers and their No Country For Old Men, working with such inviolable source material seems to have renewed Burton. He shoots the movie almost entirely in close-up, summoning an intimacy in the material that sometimes gets dwarfed on the stage. Put simply, it's cause for celebration — a macabre holiday treat that not everyone in the family is sure to enjoy.
Tim Burton Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Christopher Lee, Jamie Campbell Bower, Jayne Wisener, Sacha Baron Cohen Christopher Bond, John Logan Richard D. Zanuck, Walter Parkes Dreamworks/Paramount Studios