Today is a red-letter day (blood-red, that is): Tim Burton’s SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET, starring Johnny Depp as Sweeney, opens in 1,249 movie theaters in North America. Here are excerpts from reviews written by the most influential movie critics in the United States. You can read the full reviews on the Zone’s Porch message board; thanks to FANtasticJD, Alina, and Larkwoodgirl for posting them.
From A. O. Scott, New York Times: “SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET, Mr. Burton’s film adaptation of Mr. Sondheim’s musical, is as dark and terrifying as any motion picture in recent memory, not excluding the bloody installments in the SAW franchise. Indeed, SWEENEY is as much a horror film as a musical: It is cruel in its effects and radical in its misanthropy, expressing a breathtakingly, rigorously pessimistic view of human nature. It is also something close to a masterpiece, a work of extreme–I am tempted to say evil–genius.”
From Peter Marks, Washington Post: “Admirers of Stephen Sondheim who have long wondered whether a film of distinction would ever be made from one of his stage musicals can put aside their skepticism: Tim Burton has accomplished it in his ravishing SWEENEY TODD. With oceans of gore, streams of luscious musicality and a performance by Johnny Depp redolent of malevolence and magnetism, Burton brings Sondheim’s 1979 musical to the screen with a bravura visual style thrillingly in touch with the timelessly depraved delights of Grand Guignol. [. . .] John Logan’s screenplay homes in [. . .] deftly on the psyche of Sweeney, who in the handsome Depp’s smudgy eye makeup and deathly pallor somehow seems more Byronic, less demonic than his Broadway predecessors. [. . .] It takes an actor of Depp’s suaveness–and yes, musical grace–to fully pull this [role] off. [. . .] Vocally, he digs into lyrics as if he were pulling words out of a coal bin, waiting to feed them to the fire.”
From Roger Ebert: “Here is one scenario that is proof against a happy ending. It has what is much better, a satisfactory mixed ending, in which what must happen, does. Along the way, with merciless performances by Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Alan Rickman, with a brooding production design by Dante Ferretti, with the dark shadows of Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography, it allows Burton to evoke [. . .] the dregs of London. And yet there is an exhilaration in the very fiber of the film, because its life force is so strong. Its heroes, or anti-heroes, have been wounded to the quick, its villains are vile and heartless, and they all play on a stage that rules out decency and mercy. The acting is so good that it enlists us in the sordid story, which even contains a great deal of humor–macabre, to be sure. As a feast for the eyes and the imagination, SWEENEY TODD is … well, I was going to say, even more satisfying than a hot meat pie [. . .] .”
Congratulations to Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, and the cast and crew of SWEENEY TODD! –Part-Time Poet