Here is another one of those year end movies that I just couldn’t pull the trigger on seeing in the theatres. So here is the DVD review:
I am a big fan of Tim Burton and a very big fan of Johnny Depp. Their work together has generally been good, if not the best of their respective careers. I still find their first collaboration, Edward Scissorhands, to be their best, but I have also really enjoyed Ed Wood and Corpse Bride and liked Charlie and Chocolate Factory (I still prefer the original). Sleepy Hollow was a disappointment, though I still liked the look of the film and Depp’s performance. Sweeney Todd, unfortunately, falls toward the bottom of this list, just above Sleepy Hollow.
Oddly, the reason for this has little to do, so far as I can tell, with either Burton or Depp or any of the other actors for that matter. I loved the look of the film and all of the actors (singers) were good to excellent depending upon their singing abilities. Their is a ton of blood–cartoonish blood–in this film, and I thought it was handled appropriately given the fairy talish type of story. The pacing is a little slow, but this does no real damage to the film. No, my real problem with Sweeney Todd; the reason I don’t like it, is the source material. There are, by my tastes, fatal flaws in the story of Sweeney Todd that I could just not look past.
Sweeney Todd is clearly a tragedy, in the Greek sense (filtered through Shakespeare and Jack the Ripper). This is clear from the beginning, and I have no problem with a tragic tale. There is a moral resonance to a tragedy that can be felt across cultures, which is why this brand of story has been around as long as it has had. The problem with Sweeney Todd–For anyone who has not seen the film, I am not going to spoil anything for you, so this will be brief–is that to achieve the arc of a tragedy it sets up too many silly coincidences and absurd (and absurdly obvious) twists that when they go to their inevitable conclusions feel, to me, completely unearned. I know people love Sweeney Todd, particularly as a play and a lot have liked this film, but it simply did not work for me at the story level.