Yesterday, this column reviewed "Hairspray," a musical. Musicals are a beloved genre of American culture. Often, they are boy meets girl or coming of age stories. But for a twist on those plots, nothing makes for a more unconventional musical than "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," which charts new and quite unseemly territory for musicals.
In this film, based on the popular Broadway play, the always interesting Johnny Depp plays the lead role. As a young man in Victorian England, his name was Benjamin Barker, and he was falsely accused of a crime by the corrupt Judge Turpin (played by Alan Rickman). After spending many years in prison, he returns home, looking for revenge. He changes his name to Sweeney Todd, and he works in a barbershop above a bakery run by Mrs. Lovett (played by Helena Bonham Carter), who sells meat pies. They team up and kill people and use their body parts in the pies. Sweeney's ultimate goal, of course, is to get the evil Judge Turpin.
This film is directed by Tim Burton. As he does with his other movies, he makes it gorgeous. Most of the film looks very dark, which reflects the mood of the film. Also, he does a good job with the musical numbers, such as Mrs. Lovett's first scene, where she sings about her pies.
Johnny Depp is sinister and swarthy as Sweeney Todd. He shows how sad his character is and how obsessed he becomes with revenge. Helena Bonham Carter is equally good as Mrs. Lovett, whose desires for Sweeney know no limit. None of the adult characters in the film seem capable of acting unselfishly, so if you are looking for a hero to root for, this is not your film.
With great visuals, performances, and musical numbers, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" is an impressive, albeit unconventional musical.