Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

December 25, 2010 - Never one to shy away from blood in his films, director Tim Burton has a ball with his 2007 big-screen adaptation of the hit Broadway musical. Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Alan Rickman star and do their own singing.

Depp plays Benjamin Barker, once a successful barber in 19th Century London. But, a powerful judge (Rickman) took a liking to Barker's wife. He arranged to have Barker arrested on a trumped up charge and sent away to prison. As the movie opens, Barker returns to London with the name Sweeney Todd and with a plan to exact his revenge on the judge.

Todd quickly finds his way back to his old place in Fleet Street. A widow named Mrs. Lovett (Bonham Carter) has taken over the premises and sells meat pies. She quickly sets her sights on Todd as a possible mate and becomes a willing conspirator in his bloody revenge.

Overall review: *** The grit of Victorian London and the bloody premise of the musical make Sweeney Todd a perfect fit for Burton's directing style. There's plenty of opportunity for the dark, washed-out settings he favors, and there's more than enough blood to go around. The actors acquit themselves well with their singing efforts.

A couple years ago, I saw Sweeney Todd on stage when the tour came to Scranton. I found that particular production slow and plodding. The fact that the actors also had to play the instruments (there was no orchestra) didn't help. I came away wondering how Sweeney Todd ever managed to be a hit Broadway musical. After seeing Burton's film version, now I know.