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My first introduction to Sweeney Todd didn’t come from the musical as such but the critically abused, Kevin Smith film, ‘Jersey Girl’. In it Ben Affleck’s daughter wants to do a musical number for a school talent show, and picks a song from Sweeney Todd with all the gore as well.  When I later heard that Tim Burton was to make Sweeney Todd as a film I was quite excited as I always look forward to a new Tim Burton film, and especially as he was working with Johnny Depp again.

  After some amazing opening credits which have a real comic book style to them, we are introduced to Benjamin Barker, a london barber, happy with his beautiful wife and new daughter, but a local judge jealous of Barker’s life and has him taken away. Years later Barker returns, no longer the happy family man he was, but now a ghostly dark figure looking for revenge on the man who took his life away. He returns to his former home above the pie shop of Mrs Lovett to set up a barber’s shop under the new name of Sweeney Todd.  Pretty soon though he starts losing his mind, his customers start losing their blood, and Mrs Lovett gets lots of meat for her pies!

    From that intro you would think this was a typical Burton film, but the big difference this time is that it is a musical. I’m not a huge fan of musicals as them tend to be quite camp, but under Burton’s direction it’s a whole new experience. The songs in this film aren’t a distraction but help the story to evolve, okay the first time Johnny Depp breaks out into song it’s a bit odd, but once you get into the film, you almost forget the characters are singing. As for his singing Johnny Depp does a great job, his voice is pretty good with a real David Bowie style to it.  It’s not all singing though and as the frankly mad Todd, Depp has a good grip on the character and even though he is basically  a serial killer you do feel for him, especially as he comes across his daughter and Alan Rickman’s Judge Turpin.  There is a great appearance by Sacha Baron Cohen as a rival Italian Barber and Timothy Spall has the right level of snivelling creepiness as Turpin’s right hand man.  The only charaters I didn’t really care for were the young man trying to woo Todd’s daughter and the actual daughter. While these two are singing to each other I was just waiting for Todd to come back on the scren.  One thing the Steven Sondheim musical is renowned for is the amount of blood, and the 18 certificate on this film, says all you need to know. It is very gory as Todd slices necks after neck with a massive spray of red and severed skin. Then the fall of the bodies into the cellar is pretty graphic.  As with any Burton film it has a real dark gothis look but captures a real 19th century London look, with everything seemingly dirty and covered in soot. It has has the little touches of humour that we expect for his films, which with such a dark story you really need.  If you like Tim Burton’s films then you will love this, and even though it is a musical don’t let that put you off. Rating 8/10.   

( I actually saw this before Cloverfield but just hadn’t got round to reviewing it yet! If you have HD DVD it is out in the US on April 1st, no joke!)

If you’ve seen the film, let me know your thoughts on it at the forum which you can access in the top right corner of the site.

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