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Sweeney Todd slashes its way to DVD

Kaitlyn Conway | Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Looking for a movie in which a barber kills all of his clients? Or maybe something that makes you laugh as someone fantasizes about her love life with someone who won’t even hold her hand? Then “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is right up your alley.

“Sweeny Todd” follows the story of a barber who returns to London after 15 years in Australia, where he was exiled on false charges. When he returns, he has lost both his wife and child to the machinations of the vile Judge Turpin. The movie chronicles his growing obsession with getting revenge on the judge at any cost.

The movie has elements typical of director Tim Burton in it. The dim lighting, gothic costumes, deathly-pale characters with heavy eye makeup, fake blood and excessive gore are all examples of Burton’s style present in the film.

While appropriate to the movie, the excessive bloody and gory scenes sometimes take away from the story of Todd’s revenge on the despicable Judge Turpin. Scenes that would have been poignant if not for the CGI blood and excessive violence turn into darkly humorous scenes under Burton’s direction.

Even then, the dark humor has its place in the movie. The movie is not supposed to be a pleasant one, but one-liners and antics from Helena Bonham Carter’s Mrs. Lovett help elevate the mood in otherwise dark moments. In particular, her fantasies during “By the Sea” are hilarious. Of course, you can’t disregard Depp’s acting in that particular scene as well, which is spot on and is also perhaps the only moment when he is not playing a vengeful character.

And the entire movie isn’t just focused on Todd’s single-minded desire for revenge; it is lightly paralleled by the love unfolding between Todd’s shipmate, Anthony Hope, and his daughter, Johanna. There is also a sweet, though eerie, mother-son bond that appears in “Not While I’m Around,” in which the young Toby assures Mrs. Lovett of his devotion to her. Todd’s love for his wife, Lucy, is also an important theme. It’s his desire to avenge her that leads him to his obsession to kill Judge Turpin.

In “Sweeney Todd,” Depp and Bonham Carter deliver roles that are both touching and frightening in a movie that sometimes goes overboard on the gore. Yet when you listen to Todd’s bittersweet ballads and Mrs. Lovett’s whimsical opening song “The Worst Pies in London,” you can’t help but enjoy the movie. There’s something entrancing about watching Todd’s descent into an obsessive revenge.

In a few words, the movie is delightfully disturbing. If gore isn’t your cup of tea, then avoid it at all costs, as some scenes do go overboard, and the shock of Todd slitting someone’s throat never goes away. But if you’re looking for a darkly humorous yet moving film, this should definitely go on your list.

Contact Kaitlyn Conway at kconway2@nd.edu