Thursday, December 20, 2007

Odd Yet Enthralling: Sweeney Todd

Sweeney Todd (Advance Screening)
Directed by Tim Burton
To be released December 21, 2007

The opening credits to this film got me more excited than I have been at the movies for quite some time. An amazing thundering score set to blood racing every which way in a gothic city set the tone for an entirely bizarre experience. "Sweeney Todd" and all its players revel in the fact that this is pure fantasy, and that the boundaries of reality are completely redefined. It excels in that sense, but it also inhibits the storytelling ability of the film. Like many musicals, it sacrificies plot for the sake of a convenient song. Yet "Sweeney Todd" pulls it off remarkably well. The history of the title barber is not as delved into as it could have been, and the movie gets stuck in the mud when it dwells upon a subplot involving a sailor which is really of no consequence and could easily have been left out. That said, I was fully captivated the entire time, often shaking my head in disbelief at the wonder of how everything was so well pulled off. There are perhaps no two actors better suited to this kind of film than Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, who can actually sing (!) and really make their characters. The rest of the cast is fairly lacking, to a disappointing Alan Rickman and a far-too-girly Jamie Campbell Bower as the aforementioned sailor. Timothy Spall solidifies his reputation of being cast as the most vile, despicable human beings ever to scour the earth (after this year's "Enchanted", no less). A supporting performance by Sacha Baron Cohen ("Borat") is rather distracting, and I never thought I would see anyone upstage Johnny Depp onscreen. The real find here is Ed Sanders, in his film debut as the young Toby. The singing is better than you might expect, and the musical score is wonderful. Director Tim Burton has crafted a marvelous gothic universe with dazzling set pieces which is both fascinating and puzzling. You definitely will not want to look away, though you may have to during some of the film's much more violent scenes involving a certain barber's razor.


Oscar chances: I guess Johnny Depp will go the distance, but his role is somewhat limited and I do not think he should make the cut over a number of the other actors in this crowded category. Carter is great, but pales in comparison to the lead female performances this year. Costumes, Art Direction, and Makeup seem sure bets, while Film Editing and Sound/Sound Editing may be a bit more elusive. Tim Burton may be able to make it to the Oscar race, as well as the film, but I think the mainstream may reject this slightly as just a bit too off-kilter. Depp and technicals seems what it may be destined for, just like another popular Depp film - "Pirates of the Caribbean". A boost from the SAG will certainly help.

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