Location: Los Angeles, California

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sweeney Scores

Tim Burton's "Sweeney Todd" is his best film since "Ed Wood," and the reason is because he finally has some strong material to work with. Burton is only as good as his story, and the story -- and music! -- of "Sweeney Todd" is more than enough.

Secondly, it's the perfect marriage of filmmaker and content. Burton was born to make this bloody musical, and it's hard to imagine anyone else pulling it off.

Johnny Depp is very good. His singing voice, while unspectacular, is competent enough to carry the narrative, and his actual performance is fierce -- he may give some people the willies. However, who I was most surprised with was Helena Bonham Carter. I had been thinking all this time that she got the part because she is Burton's partner, but Carter dazzles in the role of Mrs. Lovett. Again, her singing could be better, but she nails the qualities of Mrs. Lovett that make her both revolting and oddly charming, and her comedic beats are sublime.

I need to and want to see it again. The screening room I saw it in made the odd choice of projecting the movie digitally. Despite George Lucas' insistence that digital projection is the future, it still makes the film look strangely pixelated, as if I were watching a computer game. It also added a green hue to a color palette I'm pretty sure was supposed to be nearly black-and-white.

It's going to be really interesting to see how "Sweeney" does with audiences. It is bloody. Very bloody. And yet it never bothered me. The blood looks more like red paint, and it's done so quickly and in such an exaggerated manner that it became a non-factor. Yet, I do think many audiences, particularly women, will have trouble with the blood and the dark subject matter. Depp's young female fans may not like that his character is so despicable. Others will avoid the movie because it is, after all, a musical.

So who will like "Sweeney Todd"? Burton fans, definitely. And those who like things that are not conventional. A musical about murder, human-meat pies, and rape? It's something that shouldn't work, but Burton makes it work splendidly.

It's so nice to have Tim back.


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