I knew there would be music in Tim Burton‘s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, I just guess I didn’t know there would be that much music, that the music would be rather forgettable and sung by non-singers to boot.
Johnny Depp is great in any role he does (well, other than his Southern accent in The Astronaut’s Wife) but he isn’t much of a singer, and it really impinges upon his acting. You can’t really act when you’re singing, because the phrasing and timing serve the music, not the plot points behind the lyrics.
I own everything Depp’s been in, from CryBaby to Before Night Falls to Libertine (which I particularly liked) to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and of course all the Burton ones (Ed Wood is my particular favorite) but this may be the first one I just don’t want to see again. Well, that and Secret Window, which relies on a plot device that is so hackneyed I couldn’t believe it was true, even as I watched in horror as it whoever the director was let out clues that it was indeed the case, THE KILLER IS ME! trope that was old long before 3 different movies used it that year (another of my heroes, Robert DeNiro, appeared in one of the others! The Horror!).
Ok, I didn’t buy Once Upon a Time in Mexico, even though I liked the movie, because the idea of someone getting their eyes gouged out was just too gruesome and gratuitous for me to swallow, sorry. Rodriguez even tried to play it for humor, but sorry, its just not funny. It put me off the entire movie, which other than that, I loved, and I liked Depp’s portrayal. Better to have had his eyes damaged so he was temporarily blind or needed a bandage over them. Not to blind him permanently. I could barely watch after that point and I don’t think I made it all the way through. Really ruined the movie for me.
I also have never bothered buying the any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, his character is just too camp and I detest Orlando Bloom and whoever the girl is, I’ve mercifully forgotten her name for a second, please don’t remind me.
Oh yeah, and Finding Neverland was just kind of lame, plus it had that “mug for the camera” despicable little bastard who was in August Rush (a really, really lame ass piece of shit movie, it doesn’t even fit in the same category with merely “bad movies”). I put up with him in “Charlie” but I didn’t like it much.
But other than that, I enjoyed and own every other movie Depp has ever been in, so not buying it is a very strong condemnation on my part, right there. Hell, I even bought From Hell and Don Juan DeMarco, so you know I make allowances for lesser films. I only don’t buy the ones it actually annoys me to watch. Well, his last scene, before the sanity board in “DeMarco” is pretty fucking good, but the rest isn’t much, and it includes a bathtub sex scene with a corpulent Marlon Brando and an elderly Faye Dunaway, for fuck’s sake, thank god for the FF> button.
But back to the movie at hand.
Another thing, if you are going to have songs, they should advance the story, as they do in Nightmare Before Christmas, for example. Here, we get to hear what the person is feeling or they describe the action, but they don’t advance it. Nightmare is probably one of my all-time favorite musicals, every single song shines, but in Sweeney Todd I just don’t feel it.
Lastly, these just aren’t very good nor memorable songs, so even if a singer like composer/singer Danny Elfman sang them it probably wouldn’t help much. I couldn’t recall a line of melody from a single song walking out of the theater. It was almost as if he strung together random notes to the lines in some places, they were that disjointed and random.
The set decoration, the overall look of the film, the costumes, the make-up, the blood and gore (I especially liked how each victim broke their skull after falling through the trap-door), the characterizations, especially by Timothy Spall, were first rate. But the entire effect was lacking. I would not buy this movie if I were not a Burton completist, but I was a Coen Bros. completist until The Lady Killers and haven’t liked anything they’ve done or produced since, so I might break with Burton on this one.
Not a failure so much, as an “eh”. I think much better songs, hiring singers instead of using actors and not letting them act, plus fleshing out the script a bit. The songs just served to pad the running time of a very thin storyline, really.
Has anyone else noticed that Burton seems to delight in turning his wife, Helen Bonham Carter, into a hag in the last 4-5 movies? Big Fish, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, Big Fish, all hags or slatterns or both. Planet of the Apes she was a chimp. Does he feel the need to fugly her up all the time?
Very disappointing from one of my favorite actors and one of my favorite directors as well. Not recommended.