Video Reviews
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
by Tim Burton
DreamWorks (2007)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
9 / 10
Oh, to see a historical movie with my historian sister! Historical liberties and unintentional anachronisms in film most often for me are filed under "creative license" and routinely ignored, whereas with a specialist around, I am repeatedly reminded that the Spartans were actually the gay ones, not the Persians, and Xerxes did not resemble RuPaul on opium. So naturally, I was pleased to hear that my place of employment, a salon, was to do a promotional with the Senator and the City Paper, cutting hair on stage before Baltimore's Sweeney Todd premiere--after all, I am a barber by profession, and now was my chance to scrabble and scrape at a film's premise with an authoritative eye! Scrapple!

For years, I worked at a barbershop which did straight-razor neck shaves at the end of every haircut, and was often reminded by the patron of the degree of trust requisite for the service, as well as asked if I had seen the 1936 Sweeney Todd film, which regrettably, I have not. A movie about a barber who kills customers with a straight razor didn't seem too far off the mark though--straight razors, especially fresh ones, are mighty sharp after all, and it's difficult to shave a face completely without just a peep of blood. Peeps of blood, though, were a rarity in Burton's adaptation of Sweeney Todd; no, "geysers" and "ponds" and "Jones Fallses of blood" are more apt descriptions. Double gross to such a point that one movie-goer at the premiere was removed while having a seizure at a particularly bloody moment. Gooey gross blood. It was all gloppy and red-red-red.

The movie's narrative is basic enough to leave room for song (easy to forget and remember and forget and remember that this is a musical), while complicated enough to keep musical-phobes such as myself entertained. London barber Benjamin Barker is young and married and Johnny Depp, and all his ducks are in a row with the pretty wife (Laura Michelle Kelly) and the nice baby, until the jealous Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) snatches his liberty and family life away by arresting him on false charges and having him shipped off to Australia. Eventually, Barker returns to London as crazy-eyed, bride-of-frankenstein-haired, madder-than-a-wet-hen Sweeney Todd. We greet him in the film on the way home from Australia, telling a young sailor (Jamie Campbell Bower) of his woes. In London, at the location of his old home, he meets Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter, goths rejoice) of crappy meat-pie fame and he sets up shop above her crappy meat-pie establishment, ready to slash necks. Specifically, though, he wishes to slash the neck of Judge Turpin, who threw him in this whole stew-pot originally, and who, meanwhile, has plotted to marry his ward, Todd's daughter Joanna (Jayne Wisener).

Some people don't like this movie because it's too dark/bloody/gross/weird/musical. Pish. The music was not bad, and could hardly be called corny in a film in which whenever someone dies, you see their body fall down a hole and emit a neck-snapping thud upon meeting the ground. To call the movie too dark or bloody is like getting mad at a snake for biting you, even though you know it's a snake and biting people is its job. Tim Burton out-gothed himself with this one--this isn't just hanging out at the mall in black lipstick, this is going to the hauntedest graveyard of Gary, Indiana and spending the night sleeping right on top of Mrs. Scaryberry's grave in only an ancient Egyptian shroud and a Morticia Addams wig.

And yes, seeing the movie as a barber was a trip--Sasha Baron Cohen (YES) had a delightful turn as a braggart fake-Italian barber (Italian barbers are infamous for excellent straight-razor work), though to shave someone's face on stage, with no nice hot towels or water, while singing. . . the barber in me says, " Ah. Quite a feat." But that is neither here nor there. Tim Burton's marriage of Halloween and Christmas lives on in Sweeney Todd, and I'd sneak, creep, and steal over to see it if I wasn't at the premiere, cutting hair on stage. Fancy lady Ann!
Posted by: Ann Everton

Video Reviews (December 30th, 2007)