Heroes of the Zeroes: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.
“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”
Few actors take reckless deep-end lulus like Johnny Depp. No surprise, then, that from the start of Tim Burton’s 2007 adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s grim musical, Depp would be utterly convincing in the title role.
Sure, Depp can do crazy and Cockney, but how can someone who likened his singing to a strangled cat make it through Sondheim’s winding counterpoint style?
Some of what got shaved for this campy, but respectful, adaptation, left visible nicks. But it was perfect in one regard: Depp really can do everything. His singing proved a pleasurable revelation — a David Bowie-esque husk with boiled-over punk-rock emotion, Roger Waters’s shouting rage and all the psychotic Sondheim showmanship necessary.
His Sweeney Todd is a wrongly imprisoned barber whose release sees him seeking revenge against the judge that crossed him (Alan Rickman), killed his wife and kidnapped his daughter. Exploiting his rage for what she thinks is romance, meat-pie maker Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter) enlists Sweeney to save her business.
It’s a pity that “Kiss Me” and “Johanna” are missing from Burton’s movie version, but that’s the welcome tradeoff for Burton’s hallmarks of off-kilter stylization and bleak humor in capturing the complexities of this sinister tale.
Once blood spurts, sputters and spits, it’s in just the right shade — not so thick and crimson as to be off-putting, but not so fake and thin as to have no impact. Burton remembers, though, to use it as ink for the final stanzas in this entertaining piece of graphic poetry.