Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street ★★★★

"At last! My arm is complete again"

Burton closes out his 2000s run with the cast of Harry Potter doing Sondheim, and...is it too hyperbolic to call it amazing?

If Corpse Bride represented his last true original idea brought to life in the medium he was most comfortable with, then Sweeney Todd is the last time that his sensibilities actually aligned with a pre-existing story than having to reconfigure it to match his style or vice versa. There are of course differences between the film and the original musical, such as the titular Ballad being cut out and Dante Ferretti going hog-wild on the Victorian industrial set design where every room is super desaturated but also cavernously empty. And whereas Sleepy Hollow mixed in a bit of camp to its bloody endeavors, this time Burton and John Logan set the stage for total bleak tragedy from the jump as the opening title plays with over the credits.

There's something very ominous about seeing Johnny Depp play such a moody, murderous loner but with the voice of Jack Sparrow, as though he's weaponized people's memories of their favorite fictional pirate captain to make them more induced to sympathize (at least at first) with the demon barber of Fleet Street. But Sparrow was Keith Richards on the high seas; Sweeney Todd is more like Dave Vanian plotting revenge in a dark alley. The initial intrigue switches to horror as soon as he bludgeons Pirelli with the kettle, and it only grows from there.

Since Todd is virtually dead inside until he expands his penchant for slitting throats from a personal vendetta into a joint business venture, all the levity and liveliness has to be supplied by the people around him. Helena Bonham Carter may not be a professional singer, but she gets to show off her training by rewarding her then-husband with the best performance she's given in one of his films. She's funny, vivacious and of course eminently practical. Her deception is almost forgivable because of how badly she wants Todd to love her instead of his "dead" wife. Their duets together on "My Friends", "A Little Priest" and "By The Sea" are more delectable than any meat pie, and if Burton is using his wife and best friend to act out some Grand Guignol fetishes he has, then at least he had the courtesy to indulge in it while they were singing some great songs.

The other Potter alums are standouts as well. Alan Rickman relishes scolding starry-eyed sailor almost as much as mischievous Gryffindors, and Timothy Spall gets to bring some gross vanity to one of his usual weaselly henchman roles. Sacha Baron Cohen looks utterly in his element as Pirelli with his Cockney accent being almost as funny as his Italian one. He looks great in his bright blue outfit and I admire any snake oil salesman who does a cape twirl as an additional flourish. Jamie Campbell-Bower's cheekbones live up to the hype and Jayne Wisener looks almost identical to Amanda Seyfried in Les Mis, which is all the more weird since Johanna was almost played by Anne Hathaway instead.

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