I often imagine a young Andrew Lloyd Webber fresh out of university sitting in a pub with his mates. They kick around their ideas for their first Broadway smash, and then the friends turn to Webber for his input. He finishes a pint, sets the glass on the table and says he is going to write a rock musical based on the life of Jesus Christ. I picture his friends holding their snickers and sarcastic good lucks until he goes to relieve himself. Who knew? I feel the same way about Sweeney Todd. On my way to the theater to see it the first time, I can remember my date saying, It’s a Sondheim musical about a barber who slits his customers’ throats and a woman who gets rid of the bodies in a very imaginative way. Great.
And that’s just what it is. Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) plays a barber who is wrongfully imprisoned, leading to devastating results for his family. Upon his release, he finds a rather simple and bloody way to exact his revenge. With the help of the amorous Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter) and her famous meat pies, Sweeney Todd wields his razor with operatic finesse. Oh, and speaking of operatic, did I mention it’s set to music?
Hats off to Tim Burton. The film is dark, bloody and smart. It’s just a unique experience, and for that alone, I give it high marks. Combine that with a couple of Oscar-worthy performances, and you have a winner. You know at the end of the hilarious film, This is Spinal Tap, when Michael McKean’s character reminisces about an idea the band had for a rock musical based on the life of Jack the Ripper? Maybe it’s not such a bad idea after all.
It's an 8.