I love the way that Todd and Mrs. Lovett don’t look like anyone else in the film: it’s like they’re this unique little goth couple with skin three shades to pale and eyes much too dark. They almost look like Conrad Viedt in The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, which it turns out is intentional. Helena Bonham Carter is great, and Johnny Depp physical manifestation of Todd when he isn’t killing had me chuckling, particularly during "Down by the
And one thing going against it, but it’s such a serious strike against that I can’t decide how I feel about the end result.
Every time Johnny Depp sings, I cringe. It’s not so bad when Todd and Mrs. Lovett are singing, like in "Little Priest", but when Depp has to carry the song all by himself or is paired with someone who isn’t up to the material ("Pretty Women" is a really good example) then the film grinds to a halt.
This Sweeney Todd, referred to in a lot of reviews as the "rock star" version, sounds a little bit like Depp is trying to replicate David Bowie, and it just doesn’t fit for some reason. Not for me it didn’t. I had no problem with Helena Bonham Carter, who is no Angela Lansbury but for the world of this film suits the music just fine. Sacha Baron Cohen, it turns out, has quite the singing voice. Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall, not so much. The two young lovers were pretty good, as was the boy that Todd and Lovett adopt, but when the lead character of the film, who needs to carry the music by himself at crucial points, doesn’t deliver then the movie fails on some fundamental level.
Like I said, Depp is otherwise well suited in this Burton-esque variation on Sweeney Todd, and when he isn’t singing, I bought it completely. He’s alternately funny, frightening, and sad throughout the film and even though the voice isn’t dissimilar, there’s not a trace of any Captain Jack or other Depp characters in his Todd.
But that singing issue really makes it hard to say the movie succeeds. So much hinges on the songs, and when the really important ones are nearly unlistenable, it really undermines all that is great about this Sweeney Todd. If the question is "does it do Sondheim justice?" the answer is most definitely no. For fans of Tim Burton, if you can get over this critical hurdle, you can find much to admire in his take on the story.
I would recommend it, and dare say some of you might even not have the same reaction I did; those not as close to the play as Adam was may find as much if not more to love about the movie, but I fear I can’t give anything better than a "mixed" review. This is certainly a renter.
An Important Note from the Cap'n: I feel it is fair to disclose that generally speaking, I’m mixed on recent Tim Burton output. As a big fan of his films through Sleepy Hollow, I did not like Planet of the Apes at all, was not a fan of Corpse Bride, but generally like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Big Fish, for what it’s worth.