Hold on to your carotids! You’re in for a bloody, messy ride. Director Tim Burton takes the audience on a chaotic journey through revenge, death, cannibalism, and sorrow in this maniacal, gory musical.
Once upon a time (pardon the cliché), London was home to a humble yet talented barber, Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp), his wife Lucy, and daughter Johanna (Jayne Wisener). All was well until the corrupt Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) decides that he wants Lucy for himself. To get her away from Benjamin, Turpin slaps some bogus charges on the town barber and sends him to prison in Australia. Judge Turpin then has his way with Lucy, completely destroying her life and spirit, and locks up Johanna in his house, forcing her to grow up there. After 15 years, Barker returns to London and assumes the alias Sweeney Todd. He wanders in to Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop, home of his ex-landlord. Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter) reveals that Lucy went mad and suicidal and then gives Todd his barber shop back. Dreaming of revenge on Judge Turpin, Sweeny challenges and defeats a rival barber, Pirelli (Sasha Baron Cohen), in a barbers’ duel to show off his skill and attract customers, especially the judge. Pirelli recognizes Todd and attempts to confront him in at his shop. Todd slashes his throat, hides the body, and sends Pirelli’s young assistant (Timothy Spall) to work with Mrs. Lovett in the pie shop. This begins a very long line of serial killings of just about anyone who dares take a seat in Sweeny’s chair. Together, Mrs. Lovett, who falls deeply in love with Todd, and Sweeny decide that the best and most profitable way to dispose of bodies is to grind them up and serve them in Mrs. Lovett’s pies. In a reckless attempt to get his revenge and be reunited with his daughter, Sweeney finds out that Mrs. Lovett, whose judgment was blinded by love, may not have been completely truthful with him and discovers that he may have ended up carving one too many throats.
The one thing I just could not get over was all of the blood and gore in this movie. I know…I know….you have to have some blood if you are going to slit someone’s throat, but this was major overkill. Todd’s barber shop comes nicely equipped with a chair that dumps the bodies of the deceased downstairs where they can be discretely ground up into decadent pies. The chair tends to dump the bodies backwards so they land on their heads and their brains come spilling out with a lovely, sickening thud. If the blood and gore could have been cut into about half, I may have been able to pay more attention to the storyline and the acting instead of staring blankly at the spraying blood and mashed body organs. The film would be so much more effective if you weren’t distracted by nausea and vomiting.
I knew that this movie was a musical from the beginning. I expected the singing, dancing, and silliness that come along with a musical, but again, overkill. I’m not sure that there was 20 minutes total of just dialog in the whole movie. At the end, I was so tired of hearing people sing that I could scream. I even considered turning off the film about halfway through because I was so annoyed by it. You can make a successful musical without singing the ENTIRE way through it (i.e. Chicago). Like the blood and gore, if the singing were cut in half, the movie would have been ten times better.
This movie was not one of my favorites. The dark, elaborate costumes and settings were my favorite things in the film, but they too were overshadowed by the forced special effects and music. On a positive note, yes ladies, Johnny Depp can still look hot as a psycho serial killer inflicting exsanguination upon his unsuspecting victims.