Sweeney Todd

November 7, 2008
By Ali Miller, Oxford, PA

He wants you, bleeders! Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a story of revenge, love, and the worst meat pies in London. Todd is a fantastic film which combines a dark, original plot with stylized action and wonderful songs, making it yet another Tim Burton masterpiece.

Sweeney Todd tells the story of Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp), a talented young barber who is sentenced to a life of hard labor after being falsely charged by Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman), a man who wishes for Barker’s beautiful wife Lucy (Laura Michelle Kelly) to be his own. 15 years later, Benjamin returns to London, now a cold man who goes by the name of Sweeney Todd, hoping to return to his wife and child. He quickly learns from his previous landlady Mrs. Nellie Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), owner of Mrs. Lovett’s Meat Pie Emporium, that Lucy poisoned herself and that his now teenage daughter, Johanna (Jayne Wisener), is in Judge Turpin’s custody. Devastated, he swears that he will have his revenge-no matter what.

Think about it; the idea of a vengeful barber sounds like something straight out of a low-budget, straight-to-video horror flick, but the plot and characters are surprisingly fresh. An anti-hero willing to take drastic measures to reach his ultimate goal and a woman so in love with him that she’s willing to bake his victims into her pies; it is clear from the start that these two aren’t your regular movie duo. Also, with a plot filled with too many twists and turns to count, it keeps you endlessly on the edge of your seat. By the end, you aren’t even sure who you are rooting for (if anyone at all), and while this can hurt many films, it helps Todd leave a lasting impression on its audience.

Sweeney Todd was given an R rating almost entirely for its bloody, over-the-top action. Tim Burton’s choice of using a gory, buckets of blood approach rather than a more realistic style of violence will not appeal to everyone (Did it make this reviewer cover her eyes at times? Yes, it did.), but it is undeniable that it was a unique, daring decision. He took a chance that many directors would not take. But it is wise to remember that Tim Burton isn’t like most directors.

One of the most surprising elements of Todd was that it was a musical, based on the award winning stage show of the same name. The songs, written and composed by Stephen Sondheim, are extremely catchy despite their dark content, containing lyrics like, “We’ll serve anyone/ Meaning anyone/ And to anyone/ At all!” Another daring choice that Tim Burton made was to give the two lead roles to actors who had never been formerly trained in singing. But Burton got lucky, with both Depp and Bonham Carter’s voices fitting perfectly with their characters. Johnny, who originally wanted to be a singer in a rock band, was able to express Todd’s pain and rage believably through his songs, while Helena did just as well at showing Mrs. Lovett’s unconditional love for Mr. T. Even if you don’t like the movie itself, you are almost guaranteed to catch yourself humming one of the film’s tunes.

Sweeney Todd is a film that deserves every bit of praise it has received, and I recommend it to anyone with a taste for Broadway and dark humor. So, step into old Sweeney’s. He can guarantee the closest shave you will ever know!

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This article has 4 comments.

angelfish said...
on Dec. 2 2008 at 3:02 am

on Nov. 25 2008 at 9:19 pm
Ali I think that this review is a very good one, I would have thought reviews would be boring but this one is not..for SURE!!! An amazing Job!!!! =]

on Nov. 20 2008 at 8:21 pm

Mista T said...
on Nov. 17 2008 at 8:27 pm
Terrific job, Ali. Write some more great articles like this and you'll end up being a great author someday. So, keep up the good work!


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