Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Sweeney Todd: There Will Be Blood (and Pies)

With a little boy who’s just turned 2 and a 3 month old girl still reliant on her mother for sustenance, my wife and I don’t get out on our own all that often. The other day, we managed to get ourselves organized and get out to the movies for the first time in over a year. As it is such a rare occasion, we try to pick something best seen on the big screen. This time around, we settle on Sweeney Todd knowing that the Burton/Depp/Bonham-Carter triumvirate was likely to make for a memorable visit to the cinema.

First let me say, that I tend to despise musicals. Ever since I was a child, they have just never sat well with me. As a young teen, I recall squirming in my seat at the Pantages watching those sweaty cats warble ‘Memories’ for the 3rd or 4th time. Every time I see the Sound of Music, I just want to jump on screen on strangle Frederick so that he’ll stop trying to hump Maria’s leg. So, I don’t tend to rush out to see musicals – but I always enjoy seeing the latest idea to emanate from Burton’s Robert Smith inspired head so Sweeney it was. I’ve decided that I really like musicals so long as they meet a couple of requirements. The first is that they must star Depp, Bonham-Carter, Alan Rickman and Borat. The second is that there must be a good amount of bloodletting. This film was way more violent than Dream Girls!

I’m sure that this film will be criticized for a variety of reasons. Perhaps Burton has messed around too much with Sondheim’s original vision (I wouldn’t know). Perhaps because Depp has pulled the Elsa Lancaster wig out of the closet one too many times (not in my opinion). I’m sure that some will decry the gore (especially if they’ve made the mistake of taking their 10-year old daughter along). I’m not sure what people have against Burton - but I can’t think of another director these days who can get me excited about each new project. From the goofiness of Big Wee’s Big Adventure to the sappiness of Big Fish, I’ve enjoyed every step of the way.

This is just another addition to a fine body of work. Burton will get one of those lifetime Oscars in 30 years and we’ll stare in awe when they roll the clips from various movies. This guy still makes honest to goodness movies. He is able to puts his crazy thoughts onto the screen – that’s a real accomplishment. From the set design (a slightly gothic pseudo-Dickensian London) to the costumes (stylish but not ostentatious) to the casting (from Depp to each and every Extra) – everything is perfectly executed. The leads are fantastic and I was really impressed with the young actors. In the midst of all of the killing and general chaos, one gets a real sense of desperation. Everyone is a loner, looking for someone to whom they can cling. That’s the lasting impression I get – along with that ‘Joanna’ song that’s been stuck in my head all day. Grade: A

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