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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd ...

This is not a review. I don't think I can write a proper review of this movie. First off, my professional journalism days are long gone and GOOD RIDDANCE. Secondly, I am an incredibly biased reviewer. I don't show off my theater geek side too much anymore (if you don't include a strange, intricately detailed superhero mythology in my kids section) but I was a fairly well known local actor back in my day and for about 11 years Sweeney Todd has been high on my own personal list of dream plays. I've seen it, I know it, and certain songs I can easily sing along to. When our space baby was sick in a bubble at the Nick-You I held her hand, leaned close to her air bubble, and sang The Beatles. When I finished all their sad songs, I instantly went to the song Not While I'm Around which chokes me up every time I hear it. All that being said, I don't think that I'm able to just up and type out an unbiased Joe Sixpack review of the movie I saw last night.

But what I CAN do is compare and contrast the broadway play and the Johnny Depp/Tim Burton version. There are amazing similarities and few differences and yet the differences are big differences. Going into the film, the main thing I was worried about was how well two untrained actors would do singing two of the most challenging roles in musical theater. I love Helena Bonham Carter but the role of Mrs Lovett is a difficult one and Angela Lansbury owned that role. I was frightened. I was also frightened of Johnny Depp and his ability to truly get INTO a singing role. That might be a sin for me to say. I know he's an amazing actor and a legally canonized saint but every Sweeney Todd I had ever seen had a man with an amazingly loud voice that can really belt out the pain and frustration and anger, especially the anger.

George Hearn is the man!

I can't say that Johnny Depp's Sweeney is better than any of the broadway Sweeney's that have been out there. Depp is an actor going down an actor's road here. He's not going down the belt-it-out theater road. He's less loud and more dark and moody. He uses silence and frightening brooding in places where others have used their lungs and therefore his take on this character seems fresh and new. Songwise there's nothing to worry about. His voice is great and there are parts that garner big chills from his voice and his eyes. His best singing moments are hands down the two songs he shares with Alan Rickman who plays Judge Turpin. Rickman is the only actor in this whole film who I can say without a shadow of a doubt shines leaps and bounds over any previous actors who have filled Turpin's shoes.

Helena Bonham Carter is equally dark and brooding as Mrs. Lovett. She uses her acting skills and the camera to close in on emotions you can't see on a stage. Angela Lansbury was funny and had an amazing pair of lungs on her. She's one of the best singers of the stage. Of course Helena Bonham Carter (Do I have to say her full name EVERY TIME I mention her? It feels strange calling her just Carter. Who is she, an E.R. doctor whose departure ruined the show?) can't be compared to Landsbury voice-wise. But acting-wise, Carter (the woman, not the E.R. doctor) is a million times better. You really get the feeling that she loves Toby. But it's not all acting. She gets some amazing laughs. And the chemistry between her and Depp is amazing.

Tim Burton is the absolute perfect person to make this movie. He has always had a penchant for filling scenes with dark sets and dark lighting and dark mood. His filmmaking style is a perfect fit for such a meaty script. It's visually stunning. The opening scene, the use of black and blood, the squalor and dirt, it's all amazing and lush. And he pulls a few fast ones with the story without straying from the plot. And blood. OH MY GAWD there's blood. There's so much blood. You will NOT be prepared for the amount of blood and gore that they show in this film, even if you've seen the play a million times. The crunch of the bodies as they hit the floor, that hideous sound ALONE should win an oscar. It's graphic. You're lulled into this amazing musical and the acting is great and the cinematography is incredible. Then when the first person eats it and the blood doesn't stop, it's shocking. It's incredibly shocking. i loved it but its not for everyone. Laini was just disgusted and hiding behind her hands thru half of the movie and she took off WIT A QUICKNESS once it ended. Megan and her really nice and friendly and funny and big tittied friend hid behind their hands, too, but not as much as Laini did. It's definitely not for the squeamish.

Another thing that is definitely worth mentioning is Tim Buton's vision of Mrs. Lovett's song By The Sea. Burton has now set the bar for all future versions of the play with that song. The way he temporarily puts such bleak characters in such a bright and lush environment he has undone himself. It is the best scene in the whole movie. I haven't laughed that loud in a theater in a long time.

I could go on and on but I'm going to stop. It was refreshing to see an actual CHILD play the CHILD role of Toby. And his voice? Absolutely beautiful! Okay. NOW I'll stop.

Thanks for reading my wack-ass review. Here's some music from the soundtrack. Grab it before the studio makes me stop ...


Pretty Women


And here's a song from the original broadway cast that was sadly absent from the movie ...

The Ballad of Sweeney Todd (opening number)

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