tek's rating: ½

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (R)
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Caution: spoilers.

Well, I guess the character of Sweeney Todd has existed in fiction and urban legend since the mid-1800s, appearing in various media over the years, including a Broadway musical. I'm not really familiar with any of that, but when this movie came out, it looked pretty interesting to me. Didn't get a chance to see it in the theater, of course. Some time later, I was watching a DVD of Jersey Girl, in which a young girl, at one point, decides to do a scene from the play "Sweeney Todd" in her school talent show. That made me want to run out and buy the movie right away, but I don't suppose I did. I forget. I did get the DVD sooner or later, of course. Later still, in the Simpsons' 2009 Treehouse of Horror episode, there was a parody of "Sweeney Todd," so once again I was reminded I wanted to see it. But still I didn't, even though I'd had the DVD for some time by then. And finally, in December I was reading Entertainment Weekly's Entertainers of the Decade article, of whom Johnny Depp was one. So later that night, since I was home early from work, I thought I should watch a DVD, of which I have so many that I haven't seen, since I so rarely find the time to watch any... and I finally decided to watch this one. I don't imagine you care about any of that, so I'll just get on with the review....

Depp plays a barber named Sweeney Todd, who has just returned to London after 15 years in a penal colony, I guess. (I'm not sure when it's set, but I'd say it seems sort of Victorian.) Sweeney was accompanied by a young sailor named Anthony, who considers him a friend, I guess, though Sweeney doesn't seem to care about anyone. His name, all those years ago, had been Benjamin Barker, but he's changed it. He had been falsely imprisoned by a judge named Turpin, who coveted Barker's wife, Lucy. Sweeney returns to his former lodging, above a pie shop owned by a Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter). She told him that Lucy had poisoned herself, and that their baby daughter, Johanna (now a beautiful teenager), was now the ward of Judge Turpin. I should mention that Mrs. Lovett has always loved Benjamin/Sweeney, though as I said, at the moment he doesn't care for anyone. He lives only for revenge against Turpin.

Meanwhile, Anthony is wandering by the judge's house one day, when he hears Johanna singing in the window, and falls instantly in love with her. She sees him, and seems to fall for him, as well, though they never speak. Turpin and his associate, Beadle Bamford, warn Anthony to never return. It soon turns out that Turpin wants to marry Johanna himself, just as he had wanted her mother, 15 years ago. But she doesn't want him.

Anyway... at one point, Sweeney meets this con artist of a barber calling himself Adolfo Pirelli, who has a young assistant named Toby. Sweeney challenges Pirelli to a shaving contest, and wins. But later, Pirelli comes to his shop, and tells him he knows who he really is. So, naturally, Sweeney kills him. After that, Mrs. Lovett hires Toby, who has no idea what has happened to his old boss. Meanwhile, she comes up with the idea to use Pirelli's body as meat for her pies, and soon she and Sweeney decide to start claiming other victims (only people who won't be missed), and using them as meat. This is pretty much the only time Sweeney actually seems to like her, when she comes up with this idea. But he's still obsessed with revenge, and waits for his chance to kill Turpin. (It should be noted that before, Mrs. Lovett made, by her own admission, the worst pies in London, and so business was pretty dead. But once she started using humans as meat, business picked up considerably, though obviously no one knew the secret ingredient.)

Well, I don't want to give away any more of the plot. I'll just say, there's more singing in the movie than there is talking. And some of the songs are quite amusing. They're all rather lovely to listen to, in spite of how dark and twisted the subject matter is, for the most part. The end, of course, is not happy for anyone. But, if you're the sort who is capable of appreciating... as I say, dark and twisted subject matter... well, then, it's rather a fun movie. I guess. But it's certainly not for the squeamish....

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