'Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street'
(Helena Bonham Carter, Johnny Depp, et al / 2-Disc DVD / R / (2007) 2008 / Dreamworks Video)
Overview: Johnny Depp and Tim Burton join forces again in a big-screen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's award-winning musical thriller ... I think you already know the rest!!
DVD Verdict: Sweeney Todd is the story of a barber named Benjamin Barker who comes back to London for revenge after being taken away from his family. Todd was sent away to be jailed for a crime he didn't commit by the town judge, who was in love with his wife. Within the first ten minutes of you meeting Sweeney Todd we are introduced to the song "No Place like London". The song tells us about the anger and hate Sweeney has towards London, and it also tells us a about Sweeney's past using flashbacks, "There was a barber and his wife, and she was beautiful. A foolish barber and his wife, she was his reason and his life and she was beautiful, and she was virtuous and he was naïve. There was another man who saw that she was beautiful, a biased vulture of the law who, with a gesture of his claw removed the barber from his plate, and there was nothing but to wait."
Barker changes his name to Sweeney Todd, so that he could not be recognized. Before he was sent away, Todd and his family were old tenants of Mrs. Lovett, the owner of a local meat pie shop. Mrs. Lovett allows Sweeney to open up a barber shop up stairs from her pie shop because she has been in love with him for years. Together they make the perfect team of murderers. Sweeney kills his customers, and Mrs. Lovett bakes pies out of them to hide the bodies.
Perhaps the most important scene is when Mrs. Lovett is telling Sweeney what happened to Barker's wife after he was taken away. The music starts soft and then gets faster and louder, with the camera jumping from Sweeney to Mrs. Lovett. Once Mrs. Lovett tells Sweeney that the judge took advantage of his wife, Sweeney yells and that's how Mrs. Lovett figures out that Sweeney Todd is really Benjamin Barker. During this scene you witness a side of Sweeney that you probably only see twice during the entire movie. Sweeney is destroyed because he has been told that his wife is dead and his daughter is being held by the judge. The music changes from soft, to fast, to playful, and "the way the camera glides, the way it moves, it's a perfect fit." (Sondheim)
The casting was impeccable, with Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd, Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett, Alan Rickman as Judge Turpin, and Edward Sanders as Toby. I honestly can't imagine a better cast. It's hard to believe that this is the first musical for both Depp and Carter. Their voices keep you focused on what is going on and they sound absolutely heavenly. Each character brings something different to the table, and together they make the film stand out from other musicals.
The movie was shot in a dark, gloomy, black and gray London. There are only two parts of the movie that are actually in color. When Mrs. Lovett, Sweeney, and Toby are in Mrs. Lovett's fantasy world, and whenever Sweeney killed someone the blood was red. I'm not a fan of black and gray films, but while watching Sweeney Todd it didn't bother me at all.
I know that Sweeney Todd is obviously a musical, but it seems to me like there's a lot more music than in other musicals. Sondheim said that there's so much music in the piece because "As long as you keep the music going the audience forgets the melodramatic of the story." The music ranges from funny, sad, angry, scary, and playful. The music keeps you focused in what's going on. Every song was timed perfectly giving you just enough time to recover from the last song.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is truly a work of art created by Stephen Sondheim, with the direction of Tim Burton and brought to life by an amazing cast. The storyline is intriguing, the music keeps you wanting more, and you feel for the characters. In an almost trivial way you realize that hiding behind all the madness, sadness, and blood there's an even bigger true meaning of why the characters made the decisions they did, it was all for love. Sweeney Todd is a classic, and everyone should have the chance to experience this masterpiece. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Burton + Depp + Carter = Todd: A behind-the-scenes look at the collaboration of Tim Burton with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter featuring exclusive footage from rehearsals, recording sessions and more!
Sweeney Todd is Alive: The Real History of The Demon Barber
Musical Mayhem: Sondheim's Sweeney Todd
The Making of Sweeney Todd
Grand Guignol: A Theatrical Tradition
Designs for a Demon Barber
A Bloody Business
Moviefone Unscripted with Tim Burton and Johnny Depp