Paul Cook 07/02/2008
From the opening shot Sweeney Todd is clearly a Tim Burton film. Dark and murky, a lingering mist hangs over 18th century London. Aside from the story of a vengeful massacre and rather off-putting use of the victims, every shot, scene and setting in Burton's Sweeney Todd is depressing and sinister. A strange process of omission has gone on in this film; the love story between Lovett (Carter) and Barker/Todd (Depp) is ignored for the most part and many musical numbers from Sondheim's original musical are omitted. Instead, some of the less lyrical numbers are left in and annoyingly repeated several times each.
Nevertheless, Sweeney Todd is visceral, brooding and gory beyond all expectation. The story is concise and well structured with touches of humour in the all the right places. Depp and Bonham-Carter work extremely well together, although the cockney accents do get somewhat tiresome by the end of the film, particularly in many of the musical numbers. The singing isn't particularly fantastic but this works brilliantly to give it a deeper realism. Would a murderous barber and slightly sadistic baker really have superb singing voices? However, this said the singing feels hugely segregated from the story and 'proper' acting making it slightly disjointed and taking some believability away from the film as a whole.
Alan Rickman naturally fits right into the role of Judge Turpin giving the character real depth and an unnerving under-current of deceit. Timothy Spool is also a solid actor in the role of Turpin's henchman Beatle Bamford. Most of the leading cast give strong performances, including 14 year old Ed Sanders as Toby, Sweeney Todd's unsuspecting helper. However, Sacha Baron Cohen's character of Senor Pirelli feels simply there for novelty, humour value, and despite being quite comical in places is just too different from the tone of the rest of the film.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is another strong Burton/Depp/Carter collaboration and on paper it should be fantastic, which it very nearly is. Despite a slight slip-up in what was included, the omission of some critical parts of the story and popular musical numbers from the original stage-play and also the casting of the novelty-value Cohen, it is worth a watch any day of the week, just be prepared for blood because Burton certainly hasn't held back on that aspect of the film.