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Sweeney Todd Movie Review


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Sweeney Todd is Tim Burton’s best film to date.

Today is my birthday, and I am reminded on this day of my 32nd year that even to a diehard cineaste like me, there was a time when movies were just movies — disposable pieces of entertainment that stirred base impulses or satisfied simple needs, but otherwise left little or no impact on my daily life. During my then-burgeoning adolescence, two movies fundamentally changed that perception for me and the first of those two was Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. The second was Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, the first film in which I remember crying. But Burton’s film was exceptional because, quite frankly, it marked the first time I truly cared who made it, much less the fact that it seemed like a landscape of my own imagination, writ large on the silver screen.

22 years later, Burton releases Sweeney Todd, a radically different but no less imaginative work and I am again wowed. Wowed not because I could possibly have imagined the world he creates, or even because it resuscitates my flagging interest in movie musicals. Rather, it’s because he has once again taken the boundaries of conventional cinema and explored and expanded them in the way that only Burton can.

Longtime collaborator Johnny Depp plays Sweeney Todd — a barber who returns to London to take revenge on Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman), the man who incarcerated him in order to steal his wife Lucy (Laura Michelle Kelly). Arriving home on a vessel piloted by a young sailor named Anthony Hope (Jamie Campbell Bower), Todd discovers that his former abode is now occupied by Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter) — a struggling purveyor of meat pies. The pair soon strike a morbid pact to dispose of his victims — she’ll cook their remains into her cuisine. But complications arise when Todd’s identity is discovered by a competing barber named Pirelli (Sacha Baron Cohen), and then Turpin associates him with Hope, who pines for the judge’s ward and coincidentally Todd’s daughter Johanna (Jayne Wisener).

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Sweeney Todd Movie Posters

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