Christmas Massacre

I just got back from seeing Sweeney Todd. Before you read on, I just want to let you know that these are the thoughts of a guy whose all-time favorite Broadway show is Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. I’ve seen a letter-perfect recreation of the Broadway show back in the late 80’s; I’ve listened to the score several thousand times and know it by heart; I even played the part of Toby in a small production that had me killing someone four times a night. With that said, let’s proceed…

First off, let me say that ST is an F-ing incredible movie. As I waited for the film to start, I had to tell myself to be objective about it: This was not Tim Burton trying to film the Broadway version…It is simply his retelling of the story. And film and stage are quite different beasts. The atmosphere is so depressing it’s amazing. You only see the sun shine twice in this film. But the characters seem so at home in the gloom you would think England really did look like that back in the 1800’s. Many of the songs made it to the movie, though most shortened by a verse of two. It’s was also odd not to hear the crowd singing along during the God That’s Good number. Only the main characters sing…there’s no Greek chorus moving the story along. In fact, The Ballad of Sweeney Todd is only heard in sections of the score.

The best staged number was A Little Priest when Ms. Lovett figures out what to do with Sweeney’s victim. It was actually quite creepy the way they looked outside the windows and the passers-by pay them no heed as they are discussing the heinous acts of baking they could do.

I did have to adjust to Todd and Lovett being played and sung by younger actors, and having an actual child playing the role of Toby…not an adult with an adult singing voice. Helena Bonham Carter probably had the weakest voice but played the character wonderfully. The Worst Pies In London must be sung with more force than she did.

But all the actors were wonderful, the few that there were. Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall were both great as the villains (but is Sweeney the villain, too?). I was a bit annoyed at how fatalist they made Johanna be. Not a happy girl at all.

On to the gore….yea gads! It was amazing! Pretty much the level of gore you saw in Tim Burton’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow film. There was one person in the theater I kept seeing their hands fly up in front of their face whenever a throat was slit. This is the only reason this film got an R rating.

For the Sweeney enthusiests, you will notice the musical numbers left out of the movie, most of the ones left in are shortened, and one number, Todd and Anthony’s duet, Johanna, moved a few scenes early. There were also small story changes but it stays true to the plot of the musical.

The only thing in the film that I would have done differently……(wait for it)…..was the abrupt ending. I’m talking even more abrupt than the musical’s ending (but, then again, the Ballad of ST number and the Greek chorus wrap the musical up for you at the end). So as not to spoil it, the few additions I would have done to the film are listed at the very bottom of this post. If I wasn’t a fan of the musical I would have no gripes at all. But comparing it brings up the little things I’ve mentioned. But don’t get me wrong…this film will become my all-time favorite musical film version…and I’m hoping it’s out on Blu-Ray, not HD-DVD when it makes it out of the theaters.

And another thought…this film will do well, but because there is no happy ending I see that hurting its total gross. Most critics love it, and the Johnny Depp fans and musical fans will gladly help it be a success. Hell, I will be seeing it again soon with the Hubby (I had a half day today so went straight to the Pleasure Island Theaters and saw it). But it is not feel-good Holiday fare, and definitely not a date movie…unless you are Goth.

If you’ve never heard the musical soundtrack or seen the musical, go see it…as long as gore doesn’t put you off. And once you’ve seen the film I suggest you then purchase, or at least borrow, a copy of the 2-disc original Broadway recording and let it fill in the full story for you. Maybe I’ll come listen with you…and bring along my razor.

Read no further if you don’t want anything spoiled!

My additions to the ending would be this: Show Toby witnessing Todd killing Mrs. Lovett; allow Todd to finish singing the entire verse before being killed; and show us Anthony and Johanna in some form…in the musical they come rushing in right after Todd dies with the police with them…that would have been good, or at least them leaving the city together.

One response to this post.

  1. i am a Sweeny fan too, and we just saw the movie this evening.
    I was pleased; the b/w close ups were tender.
    good job!

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