Depp & Burton Together Again At The Multiplex
January 14, 2008 Leave a comment
I went today with my Varsity Theatre co-worker friend Molly to see SWEENEY TODD: DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET at Movies At Timberlyne. I realized as we pulled up that the last time I’d been to this particular multiplex was for CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY – another Tim Burton/Johnny Depp deal. So I decided that I’ll only go to Timberlyne to see Burton/Depp movies from this day forward. So I won’t be back ’til 2010 when Burton’s live action ALICE IN WONDERLAND is released. Depp as the Mad Hatter – can’t hardly wait.
So onto the picture show:
SWEENEY TODD: DEMON OF FLEET STREET
(Dir. Tim Burton, 2007)
I went in to this completely unfamiliar with the original 1979 Steven Sondheim musical (I say “original” loosely – that was based on a 1973 play by Christopher Bond which was based on…oh, you get the idea) so I liked letting it play out with no comparing notions. To me it was essentially the 6th in the Burton/Depp series – which are usually gothic twisted stories with a misunderstood but still magnetic protagonist with an odd affliction or vision and all the visual splendor that a crazy haired madman director can provide.
This time though Depp is singing and not badly I admit. Burton’s wife and reporatory member Helen Bonham Carter has good pipes too. In fact all of the cast -Sasha Baron Cohen (BORAT!), Alan Rickman, and Jamie Campbell Bower all sang without embarrasment – I just wish they had better songs to sing. But I’m getting ahead of myself, first let’s get onto the obligatory plot description.
Depp in the title role, with all the strained intensity he brought to Captain Jack Sparrow, shows up in London after years in exile. He finds that his beloved wife poisoned herself and a daughter is being held captive by an evil Judge (Rickman) – the same Judge who had him exiled.
His old landlady (Carter) runs a scummy roach-ridden meat-pie emporium and after a taste of one of her ‘orrible pies she returns his treasured set of razors – which shine like EDWARD SCISSORHAND‘s blades in the light. Anthony Hope (Jamie Campbell Bower) – the young sailor who brought Todd home, falls in love with Todd’s daughter (Jane Wisener) and plots to save her from the evil Judge. Todd, while planing his revenge against the Judge, goes into an odd business venture with his lusty landlady. He, with Barber shop set-up, slits the throats of his customers and drops them through a chute to her basement to be used for meat in her ‘orrible pies.
Maybe, as I was told, the editing down to 2 hours from 3 of the original score made for a lot of concessions but the amount of fragmentary non-gripping verses without choruses and then overlong sequences based on a flimsy overdone melody left me buried musically. None of the songs were catchy enough for me to remember right now is what I’m saying. The look of the film with its grey hued tones contrasting with the bright rich red color of blood lives up the best of Burton except that the flour whiteness of Depp’s and Bonham Carter’s skin almost gave me snow blindness.
Typical of Burton there are a handful of fitfully funny bits – Depp’s unchanging gloomy mug in the one sunny fantasy scene song that Bonham Carter sings (“By The Sea”) is one that comes to mind. Still the whole thing seems to lack ommph. Full sequences are better than passable but there was no real passion present.
Depp and Burton next time out should sink their teeth into such material not just nibble. I mean a musical mind you, one with a costume ball rape scene and scores of bloody slit throats, should be a full meal not a glorified Hors d’oeuvre. Just sayin’ that this choppy LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS meets DELICATESSEN could’ve been so much more.