Some dynamic duos just go together. Batman and Robin, Bahamut Zero and Jessica Alba,
Starsky and Hutch, Burton and Depp.
At least, that's what I thought going into the Tim Burton adaptation of the musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street [link @ RT]
last Friday evening. It had a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, and I've enjoyed every Burton-Depp collaboration to date, including such notables as Edward Scissorhands
, Sleepy Hollow
, Corpse Bride
-- even Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
So what happened here? How did a musical with a good old-fashioned revenge story, a dark setting, and Burton and Depp end up so... boring?
Yes, that's right. This movie is just dull. I honestly don't know what film all the reviewers were watching, but I was fighting to stay awake. Depp is suitably brooding, but his character has nothing interesting to say. The songs are meandering and largely forgettable. The supporting cast is in general either heinously underused (Alan Rickman
, Timothy Spall
) or simply insipid (Jamie Campbell Bower
, Jayne Wisener
Get ready to see Johnny Depp maintain this expression for 2 hours
Not all is lost, however. Helena Bonham Carter
plays the female lead and is a bright spot in this otherwise dreary and turgid musical. She gets almost all of the good lines, and seems to relish in the role. It's amazing how she can bring life to the movie, even in the same duet as a bland partner (Johnny Depp can hit the notes, but his voice is not particularly well-suited to the part). Another happy surprise is Sascha Baron Cohen's
performance. Although his screen time is brief, his charisma is undeniable and elevates the movie to something more whenever he appears.
Someone needed to make this movie enjoyable
In short, Sweeney Todd is perhaps a competent musical (I have not seen the stage production), but it is not a good movie. Considering the strength of its cast, this is particularly disappointing. There's also a twist that is not really a twist if you've ever seen a movie where a seemingly unimportant character receives an undue amount of camera time.
Perhaps I was just having a curmudgeonly evening, and have judged Sweeney Todd
harshly. I can only recommend that if you do go see it, go in with modest expectations and you may be pleasantly surprised. But if you go in hoping for something on par with, say, Edward Scissorhands
, your expectations are already too high.