A Demon Barber, Indeed!

For those of you lucky enough to be in America or elsewhere, you may have enjoyed the prospect of popping along to the movies to see Tim Burton’s adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Sweeney Todd, since mid-December. Us folk in Australia had to wait patiently until yesterday. But the wait was worth it!

If you’re a Johnny Depp fan who can see past his charm and good looks, you should probably be able to appreciate his fine acting talents. Personally, after seeing several of his films in recent years, I’ve never been a big fan … until now. Depp’s acting in Sweeney Todd is quite extraordinary. He plays the role so naturally, so convincingly, so flawlessly, it’s as scary as the film, itself.

My only gripe with the film was probably in post production, as the singing of the actors seemed somewhat detached and unnatural. Not that their lips were out of sync with the words, or that their voices were off (they were surprisingly good!), but just that when they sang, something ever so slight affected the believability of the words coming from their mouths on the screen.

But the acting was highly believable. If you go to see this movie for Johnny Depp’s skills as an actor, you should know Helena Bonham Carter’s presence on the screen as the maker of human-filled pies, Mrs Lovett, is also fantastic. I recall first seeing Bonham Carter back in Mel Gibson’s Hamlet in 1990, where she portrayed a wonderful Ophelia. Alan Rickman as Judge Turpin is also very good, as is young Ed Sanders, as Toby. Man, can this kid sing! Highly realistic performance. What a talent! And you’ll giggle when you see Sacha Baron Cohen (Ali G/Borat) in the film as well.

To top it all off, you have Sondheim’s fabulous music and lyrics pumping through the speakers all the way through. I’d advise not seeing this movie in a small cinema, but go to a big screen with big speakers, ’cause it’s Sondheim after all.

Is it a musical? Is it a horror? Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is every bit a scary as the best horror film you’ve seen in years. It gave me the same sense of uneasiness as when I left the cinema after No Country For Old Men, only this time with a devilish grin!

This is a wonderful film with superb acting by all the major cast. For myself, it was more horrifying this time around on the screen than on stage some years ago. The acting is not the only thing that’s realistic, as the blood spurting from people’s throats after their unfortunate visit to the barber, was almost too realistic! Be warned, this is violent in parts and while it might be a musical, as one New York Times critic said, it ain’t Hairspray!

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