Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

December 29, 2009

About halfway through, I found myself wondering if they would ever stop singing, craving a cigarette madly.

I’ve never been much into Broadway Musicals, even as a self-professed Drama Fag throughout High School and College. I can pinpoint my rapid loss of interest to exactly the moment that I wasn’t cast as Rizzo in my High School’s production of ‘Grease.’ My complete lack of singing ability was as much to blame as my Amazonian height, hence I was cast in the only non-singing role as the Principal, Mrs. Whatshername. I still watch Grease every time it’s on TV, but the more singing in a Musical, the quicker I get bored. The Wizard of Oz and Grease have about the right amount of music for me – less than 50%. Both Willy Wonka and Charlie & The Chocolate Factory are borderline. Pretty much all other musicals (except, of course, Poultrygeist) annoy the shit out of me. Hold on a sec, I actually have to take some brownies to a girl scout meeting.

…Now that I’m back, I’ve got to admit that the Sweeney Todd songs are catchy. ‘Mrs. Lovett’s Meat Pies’ has been stuck in my head all morning, intermingled with “Pretty Women.” Johnny Depp, probably the most versatile actor on the planet, did an admirable singing job. While obviously not a classically trained singer, he did a good job. Not good enough to warrant an attempt at a music career, but good. Good singing is not always a good thing. Every time that Johanna sang, I wanted to stick cigarette butts in my ears to drown out the noise. I know that’s how professional singing is supposed to sound, but it doesn’t mean I want to listen to it.

Notwithstanding all the singing, it seemed more like Tim Burton was adapting a comic book or graphic novel, rather than a Broadway Musical. My husband said it reminded him of Sin City. Sweeney Todd + comic book = an imaginary lightbulb going on over my head. As much as I would have liked to block this memory, it just jumped out of my memory holder. (Props to my four year old son for coming up with a much better phrase for ‘brain.’) I spent about five years sleeping underneath a massive Sweeney Todd comic book poster at my ex’s apartment. I hadn’t thought about that poster in over a decade, but I’m seeing it now, every single detail. How many times did I stare into the eyes of Michael Zulli’s artwork, bored to tears, waiting for the assault on my nether regions to be over? How many conversations did I have with Sweeney Todd while I was under the influence? How many times did I wish that Mr. Todd could tell me how many strange women (and men) had been through there when I wasn’t around? I digress…Neil Gaiman never actually finished the comic, but if he did, it would have been very, very close to Tim Burton’s vision.

Except for all the singing and the fact that the film accidentally reminded me of sex with my ex – say it with me, “Ew!” – I enjoyed the film. Johnny Depp is always fun to watch and I am one of the few people I know that can stand Helena Bonham Carter. (Maybe because I went through a phase where I dressed and acted like Marla Singer?) Sacha Baron Cohen’s manbulge makes an appearance, as it does in every film he does. Alan Rickman was also fun to watch as a dirty sex offender – I wonder if my best friend got turned on? She’s got a serious Snape fixation. I definitely recommend Sweeney Todd as a Musical for people annoyed by Musicals, such as myself.

Year – 2007
Rating – R
Runtime – 116 minutes
Genre – Broadway Musical Adaptation
Director(s) – Tim Burton
Writer(s) – John Logan, Stephen Sondheim
Actor(s) – Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Sacha Baron Cohen, Timothy Spall
BOB Rating – Three BOBs
Favorite Quote – "It's fop...Finest in the shop...Or we have shepherd's pie peppered with actual shepherd on top. And I've just begun. Here's the politician, so oily it’s served on a doily, have one." - Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter)