Song, Dance, Blood, Revenge, and Disgust
Release Date: December 21, 2007
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham
Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy
Spall, Jayne Wisener, and Ed
Runtime: 120 minutes
Director: Tim Burton
Executive Producer: Patrick McCormick
Producer: Laurie MacDonald, Walter F.
Parkes, John Logan, and
Richard D. Zanuck
Writer: John Logan
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Brad Grey, Chairman/CEO
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Los Angeles, CA 90038-3197
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The story opens as Barker arrives back in London after 15 years of his false imprisonment in Australia. He sails home with a young man, Anthony (Bower), who we find out rescued Barker from the sea. Barker has assumed a new identity, Sweeney Todd, but holds on to his former profession as a barber.
Bent on carrying out revenge against Judge Turpin, Sweeney quickly sets out to find him and learn the fate of his wife and daughter. After meeting Mrs. Lovett, the owner of a meat-pie shop on Fleet Street, he learns that his wife poisoned herself after being raped by the judge and that Turpin took Sweeney’s daughter as his own.
Sweeney sets up a new barbershop in the upstairs of Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop. With word spreading of his skills as a barber, he waits for his chance to have Judge Turpin visit as a customer. In a serenade to one of his silver razor blades, Sweeney waits to rejoice in slitting the judge’s throat and watching him die.
However, as Turpin eludes Sweeney’s plan, Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett devise a plan to re-open her pie shop. Sweeney kills any unsuspecting person who enters his shop, and she cuts them into pieces, grinds them up, and makes the human meat into meat pies. The pies become a hit all over London. The store is packed with customers every night, but no one knows the real ingredients of the pies they are eating.
Without presenting any spoilers, the rest of the film follows Sweeney’s attempts at exacting revenge and the horrifying reality of the success of the meat-pie restaurant. Will he get his revenge? What will become of his daughter, Johanna? Will Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett find the “happily ever after” that she wants?
This movie is not for the weak of heart, the weak stomached, or anyone with a moral conscience. The violence, blood, and cold-hearted way in which Sweeney carries out each murder are vile, disgusting and repulsive. Thus, the movie’s darkness will leave discerning, vulnerable viewers with a moral and spiritual darkness clouding their spirit.
Johnny Depp has always liked the dark, unusual roles he has performed in his career, but even so, it is surprising that he was willing to be a part of this. It is not surprising that Tim Burton brings his sick taste back to the screen in this genre, but he, too, has gone too far this time. That is not to say that the quality of the movie is not strong. The atmosphere of the sets recalls the dark days of Europe very effectively. The costume design is an especially strong aspect of this movie as well, along with the strength of the acting that makes every role come to life. Depp even successfully adds dramatic singing to his already impressive resume of acting skills.
All of this is overshadowed by the sickness of the story, however. Sweeney sings of finding salvation through slitting the throats of his victims. The judge gets Sweeney’s wife drunk in order to rape her, then turns his affections toward her daughter when she becomes a teenager. Mrs. Lovett allows her helper, the boy Toby, to get drunk in her presence just to help him sleep. She also allows him in his ignorance to eat the pies made from human flesh. It is hard to keep track of how many senseless murders are depicted, with throat after throat being torn open with Sweeney’s blade, and the gallons of blood Burton decided to use in order to illustrate this. Then, to see the bodies lying in pieces in a vat and being fed through a meat grinder, as well as seeing the restaurant full of innocent patrons eating human pies night after night, will turn the stomach of any sensitive viewer.
The word “disgust” sums up SWEENEY TODD as well as anything.
This movie is not for the weak of heart, the weak stomached, or anyone with a moral conscience. The violence, blood, and cold-hearted way in which Sweeney carries out each murder are vile and disgusting. The movie’s darkness will cloud the spirit of discerning or vulnerable viewers.