Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street


Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Jamie Campbell Bower
Directed by Tim Burton
Rating: B

It’s dangerous to love a psychopath but love can sometimes blind those who have fallen in it.

Benjamin Parker (Depp) has finished his sentence for an unjustified crime and he returns to London 15 years later under the alias of Sweeney Todd. He’s eager to get revenge on the judge who sent him away and stole his family. With the help of Mrs. Lovett (Bonham Carter), who owns a meat pie shop below his previous residence, they build a reputation for Sweeney’s barber shop. Despite his success Sweeney doesn’t gain any favor from the judge and isn’t any nearer to seeing his daughter again.

Sweeney Todd is a dark musical with a cast boasting of famous names from the leads Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter to Alan Rickman and Sacha Baron Cohen. No voice goes amiss and all are pleasing to hear throughout the movie. It can be difficult to pay attention when it’s almost all singing but it’s important to follow along. These songs give away the exposition and sometimes is entertaining by its wording. As Mr. Todd sings about the loss of his wife Mrs. Lovett croons about her infatuation with Mr. Todd who ignores her advances. During a close shave with Judge Turpin (Rickman), Todd and he sing a tune about a beautiful woman in their life while holding viewers in suspense as the razor threatens to slit his throat.

The film embraces the grimness of the story and uses it to almost cover up all the work put into filming. It’s a challenge at times to watch the movie because of how dark the screen is. The opening scene is close to pitch black and it’s hard to make out that Todd is on a ship or in London. There are parts with brighter lighting which is a relief to the eyes and some scenes use gloomy lighting which would be preferable to the near blackness other scenes have. It might have been successful lighting for viewing in theaters but in the view of one’s TV at home it isn’t pleasant. The acting and writing are redeeming qualities of the film.

The storyline builds up to a suspenseful ending with a twist not many viewers will see coming. The climax of the film arrives at the moment when too much singing might have bored viewers (like me) who aren’t used to watching musicals.  After eight years since first seeing Sweeney Todd it was time for a re-watch. It might have been an eccentric musical that was almost too difficult to watch but at least it wasn’t a waste of time.

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