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[personal profile] charloween
This is the fourth version of Sweeney Todd I know. I've seen it on stage in two very different versions, have the original cast recording (with Angela Lansbury as Mrs Lovett!) so it was only a matter of time before I saw this latest film version. The good, the bad and the ugly:

The good :
- The story and the music... it's still fantastic, no matter how incomplete or dilute it is in this version. I don't apologize for being a Sondheim fangirl. I left the theatre humming the songs and kept humming them for a few hours after.

- "Down By The Sea". There is so much humour in this show. I'm glad they didn't loose all of it in the interests of making another goth epic.

- The lighting (inconsistent though it was... hell, was the DP asleep or something?). At times, a scene was lit to look like it was lit by gas lamp or fireplace and the flicker made on the scene looked like the flicker produced by old film stock. It added an anachronistic-yet-archival quality to those few scenes.

- The zooming-camera moving through the London streets... just like the camera move from Moulin Rouge! but this time in a different city. Though in Moulin Rouge! the worst thing you could do was fall in love. The POINT: the similarity made me laugh.

- The production design: huzzah! Though with the sideburns and the leather jackets it did get a bit 70s at times...

- The singing wasn't so bad. Hiring actors who can sing is better than hiring singers who can't act.

- Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter have great comedy timing when they're allowed to play together.

The bad :
- "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd". Burton jettisoned the chorus, fine. It's hard to justify groups of people stopping to sing in the middle of the street. But surely they could have found a way to include this song? What would have been the harm of putting it after the film over the end credits?

It's got some of the creepiest ("Perhaps today you gave a nod/To Sweeney Todd") and wittiest ("They went to their maker impeccably shaved") lines in the show.

- Despite hiring actors who can also sing, there wasn't much acting going on, was there? The second scene between Sweeney and Pirelli, maybe. Johnny Depp was either raspy-whispering or shouting. I liked his robot/zombie(/Edward Scissorhands-ian?) physical acting to a point: he can be amusingly blank.

If, however, they were trying to make the point that Benjamin Barker was dead and this "Sweeney Todd" fellow was just the personality inhabiting that man's corpse come back for vengeance... they could have made that point without having the lead actor spend most of the film staring into the middle distance and pretending to be a zombie. The effect was ruined each time he showed any life or passion, anyway. Go all the way or don't have it there at all.

- "Down By The Sea" was damn hilarious, but the transition back to the main plot was far too jarring.

- Most of the Antony stuff was cut out. Three songs! Three cute, funny, wonderful songs. "Look At Me" (Antony looking at Johanna's window), "Ah, Miss" (the pair together and getting the escape plan worked out) and the "Wigmaker Sequence" (Sweeney teaches the younger man about hair so he can get into the asylum) are each of them short and precise distillations of plot and character.

Even if these weren't delightful little pieces (that are so very sharp!) you still need Antony's stuff to balance Sweeney's darkness AND to be a kind of flashback-in-the-present to the younger and more naive Benjamin Barker. The young lovers' story evens out the vengeance plot and gives it another dimension: they're trying to build the life Barker lost. The movie didn't have that so much.

- The plot just flew by. I didn't notice so much because I know the show back and forth, but Reed (who didn't know the show at all) said after that it seemed like Plot was happening independently of the characters involvement in said Plot.

- They lost the joke in "A Little Priest" about the Rear Admiral's privates. I guess it was too jolly a moment for this incarnation of the characters. Still. Every musical about cannibalism needs at least one good dick and/or buggery joke. It's, like, a rule.

The ugly: There might have been something wrong with the projector or this copy of the film, 'cause there was serious lighting issues going on towards the end of the reel with "Not While I'm Around". The darker tones were all faded blown out on a few angles, which is a problem in a film that's lit rather dark.

All in all, I had a good time. I giggled through the entire opening credits sequence. Even if Johnny Depp was disappointingly zombified through a lot of the film, there was still enough of the spark o'life and humour left to give a few chuckles.

(OT: saw the movie with my brother. Brother informed me that his female classmates decided he has McDreamy hair. Hate to admit it, but it's true. Minor teasing ensued. :D)
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