Posted by: Dr P | December 4, 2008

Sweeney Todd

It’s been 3 weeks since my last cinematic outing to see the rather excellent “We Own the Night”, and in that time the buzz has been building towards Tim Burton’s latest epic. With faithful movie companion Big G restored to my side, it was with some feverish anticipation that we embarked on our latest voyage of discovery.

The mood for the evening was set while we were queuing to buy tickets and the girl on the counter decided to open a bag of change. Not the toughest task in the world but she clearly pulled far too hard in her eagerness and the coins went everywhere – in the popcorn, over the drink dispenser, six feet in the air. I wonder if she has a boyfriend?

Anyway, into the cinema and we noted a larger than usual crowd. Clearly the early reviews promising much blood and gore had drawn in the folk of Bury. We like a good bloodbath. Speaking of which, we mused on why the film had an 18 certificate, having recently seen such films as “300” where the violence is off the scale. I thought it may be for Johnny Depp’s singing, but that also proved groundless.

Yes indeed, folks, it’s a musical. That may have been a surprise to some. Although slightly less of a surprise on learning that the two main characters in a Tim Burton film are played by Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. Oh and 3 of the main 4 actors are from Harry Potter. The film opens and we see Johnny Depp on board a ship. That’s a new one. And then he starts singing. Magic!

For those who don’t know the backstory – or think that Sweeney Todd was a detective (see later) – the basic premise is that Sweeney, or to give him his full name, the Artist Formerly Known as Benjamin Barker, was framed for a crime he didn’t commit by a corrupt judge (deliciously played by Alan Rickman just a notch below Professor Snape level) just so the latter could get his hands on Sweeney’s missus and daughter. 15 years have passed and he’s back to get his revenge.

Sweeney immediately hooks up with the local pie shop owner, Mrs Miggins, sorry Lovett. In Tim Burton’s depiction of London, the place is overrun with huge bugs and all manner of disgusting foodstuffs. Greggs was never like this. Mrs Lovett is played by the exquisite Ms Bonham Carter, who possesses not only wonderful acting ability, but also the ability to make a filthy, scruffy, desperate woman utterly sexy and desirable. She should take the lead role in Britney Spears: the Movie.

Lovett informs Todd that his wife poisoned herself and that his daughter is now locked up in the house of the evil judge. A small subplot develops in which one of the members of Hanson tries to cop off with said daughter and is given a good booting, so he’s also out for revenge.

At this point we’re about half an hour in and there’s no gore to speak of. However, a rather silly shaving competition with Ali G playing a ludicrous fake Italian barber soon turns nasty and we get to witness Sweeney’s sharp blades take on the life they were made for. It doesn’t take long for our leads to realise that the best thing all round is to dispose of the bodies and turn them into pies. Mr Kipling missed a bit of a trick there.

From this point on, we’re into a whole slew(!) of gory slayings. Ironically there’s an early visit to the chair from the judge but he is saved from an early death by the arrival of Hanson! It does however allow the wonderful moment where Professor Snape and Captain Jack Sparrow are duetting. Priceless. Thereafter, we staged a “whose blood spurted the furthest” competition as Tim Burton goes haywire on the sprayage and the film earns its 18 certificate. Even more cringeworthy are the noises of the bodies hitting the floor of the pie factory below, which they do regularly with sickening crunches and thuds.

Needless to say, this film does NOT have a very happy ending*, except maybe for anyone planning to visit Sweeney the next day. There’s also a really wicked twist at the end which further enhances the madness of it all.

* in fact it’s not even slightly happy. Not even a tad.

The cast perform their vocals admirably, particularly the younger cast members. Ms Carter and Mr Depp are more than passable, and there’s a truly hilarious “dream” scene in which Helena is singing about them making a new life somewhere exotic (Brighton) and throughout which Depp’s character has a completely miserable expression on his face. Mind you, so did I the last time I went to Brighton.

Having left the cinema in near stunned silence, we then had three fabulously funny moments. First of all, neither of us could work out how to open the disabled exit, and then we discovered that the car park had been taken over by what appeared to be the Bury Radio Controlled Car Society. All we could hear at first was the drone and whine of something from the far corner – it was a bit like you’d imagine llamas mating would sound like, but it turned out to be far less entertaining.

And then to cap it all, I had a wonderful text exchange in which someone who shall remain nameless (but is tagged on the right) pretended to get all confused and ask why the film was about blood and pies when Sweeney Todd was a detective? I know she was kidding but it was bloody funny.

Oh and Kate, you were right. There was actually no way to get a mention of your sexy Catherine Zeta Jones Chicago outfit into this review 😉

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