Director’s Cut

Tim Burton has taken Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's Grand Guignol operetta, hemmed in the narrative, cast confessed nonsingers in the principal roles, and somehow produced something magical — the only one of the new-millennium Hollywood musicals that succeeds both musically and cinematically. Burton breathes new life into the genre by dousing it in buckets of blood. Nothing about the world of Sweeney Todd will exactly surprise connoisseurs of Burtonia — the elaborate (and party CGI) sets could well have been constructed with odds and ends from Sleepy Hollow, and the casting has more than a touch of the familiar to it. As the lovelorn baker woman Mrs. Lovett, Helena Bonham Carter is so animated you'd be forgiven for mistaking her for her stop-motion surrogate from Burton's 2005 Corpse Bride. As for Johnny Depp as the eponymous, vengeance-seeking barber, well, it's not the first time he's played a social misfit with shiny metal at the ends of his upper extremities. But like the Coen brothers with No Country for Old Men, working with such inviolable source material seems to have renewed Burton. He shoots the movie almost entirely in closeup, and by doing so brings out an intimacy in the material that sometimes gets dwarfed on the stage. Put simply, it's a cause for celebration — a macabre holiday treat not everyone in the family is sure to enjoy.


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