Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Genres - Musical  |   Sub-Genres - Musical Comedy  |   Release Date - Dec 21, 2007 (USA)  |   Run Time - 117 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Derek Armstrong

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street split audiences like its title character splits jugular veins. Some embraced Tim Burton's dark vision for the material, as well as Stephen Sondheim's songs -- so much so that it won two Golden Globes (for Johnny Depp's performance and best musical/comedy) and one Oscar (for its art direction). Others thought the film continued Burton's descent into his own increasingly narrow world view, showcasing his reliance on the same collaborators (Depp and Helena Bonham Carter) and the same type of gnarled cityscapes and murky production values. With such sharp disagreement about the quality of the film, a person's own Burton biases may help determine his or her feelings about it. What's beyond dispute is that Burton commits to grisly violence like never before. Even in a movie in which beheadings were the standard (Sleepy Hollow), there was never this much blood and this many dead bodies. Like almost everything else in the film, even the blood is some shade of brown or black. It's clearly a conscious effort on Burton's part to be so unremittingly dreary, but it may turn off viewers seeking color -- which they get only during a day at the beach for Todd and Mrs. Lovett. Set apart stylistically from the rest of the film, this sequence may have unintended consequences -- it may make audiences miss the Burton they once knew, who regularly saturated his films (Beetlejuice, Big Fish) with color. Without color, this bloody film is frequently bloodless, and always misanthropic to the nth degree. Depp and Bonham Carter hold their own on the singing, and Burton's vision of London is fully realized, if not entirely original. Then again, the biggest complaint about Sweeney Todd is not that Burton is stealing from others; rather, he's stealing from himself.