Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Capsule Review: Sweeney Todd


Movie
: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Director/Studio: Tim Burton / Paramount

10 Word Review: Burton's vision matches Sondheim's classic uncannily. Depp is marvelously frightening.

Best Thing About It: Crediting the director as the best thing about a movie can come off like a catch-all. "What did I love about the movie? Well everything!" But here, when I say Burton is the best thing about it, I'm talking about how he managed to render an established product and make it his own without it sucking (as Planet of the Apes did) or showing the seams (as they did in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). It honestly felt like Sweeney Todd had always been a Sondheim/Burton co-production: a dark revenge fantasy for a pair of wronged freaks.

Worst Thing About It: You think I'm going to say Helena Bonham Carter and her thin little voice, don't you? Well I'm not. I actually thought she was fabulous. Not as a singer, of course, but as an actress, a presence, and as a canvass for Burton to create her as a ghostly, sad little creature, always a corpse bridesmaid, never a corpse bride. No, the worst aspect of the film is the Joanna character, both in the uninspiring Kirtsen Dunst lookalike they got to play her and in the snoozer of a subplot she represents. The kid they got to play her suitor certainly tries -- and gives Lukas Haas a run for his money as Mr. Fish-Eye Hollywood 2007 -- but in the end it's hard to care.

Best Performance: Johnny Depp, by God. He deals with his limitations as a singer better than HBC does, growling and snarling his way through the streets of London. He embodies an absolute monster of a character, dead inside yet driven by a vengeful fire. If it's not the best performance he's ever given (and it might be), it at least stands beside Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, and Jack Sparrow.

Oscar Prospects: Iffy. Depp should be in, but after a SAG Awards snub, who knows? If the Academy has any fondness for Burton at all, they'll reward him with a Best Director nomination. But the question, as it's always been, is whether there is much love in Academy circles for Burton. Art Direction, Costume, and Makeup nominations should be forthcoming, certainly.

Grade: A-

5 comments:

harlemjd said...

In fairness to the girl who plays Joanna, she's given fuck-all to do. My main biggest complain was that Burton teased me with a glimpse of Anthony Head and then cut all the scenes where he sings. I spent the whole second half of the movie wondering when the hell Giles was coming back on.

other than that, loved it.

Rural Juror said...

completely agree about that subplot . . . marred the movie for me

Joe Reid said...

I seriously completely forgot Giles was in that movie until just now. You're right though -- that's an outrage.

Rinaldo said...

"In fairness to the girl who plays Joanna, she's given fuck-all to do."

True as far as it goes, but then oughtn't she to do it better? With a role that's been so severely cut that the actress has to do little besides look pretty and sing about 16 measures, it seems reasonable to complain if there's a huge WAwaWAwaWA slow wobble in all her long notes. Any conservatory contains a dozen girls who could do it better.

As for the boy who plays the sailor Anthony, my perspective on him has been permanently spoiled by the friend who described him as "Claire Danes in drag."

Mike said...

"As for the boy who plays the sailor Anthony, my perspective on him has been permanently spoiled by the friend who described him as 'Claire Danes in drag.'"

That's no way to speak about Academy Award winner Hillary Swank.