Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street stars Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall and Sascha Baron Cohen. Johnny Depp plays the title character – Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – a barber who was sent to prison under false accusations. After 15 years he returns to London to take his revenge against those that wronged him and his family.
The movie is Tim Burton’s adaption of the 1979 Tony Award winning musical by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler. Johnny Depp isn’t really known for his singing. He took singing lessons when he was cast for the part in preparation for the role. The producer of the film said that it was a bit of a gamble, but it seemed to work as the critics generally thought that he fit his character and the part.
When the movie was released people criticized Helena Bonham Carter’s singing abilities, saying that her voice was too thin and weak for the portrayal of Mrs. Lovett, but we feel that it fit the story and the character for the film version.
Depp’s singing is one of the high points of the movie. His voice range goes from crackles at time that portrays great sadness to the voice of the demon when his rage is being expressed.
Underlying themes (spoiler alert):
The narrative is far more complicated and unpleasant than first appears. Consider the following topics:
Child abuse: Toby from the workhouse is addicted to booze and reveals “awful things” happened at the workhouse. He also mentions that the children were given Gin in order to sleep. Adolfo Pirelli abused Toby as well.
Corruption: There are lots of themes of corruption in the story, for example, the unethical judge and beetle getting away with whatever they want (rape, false convictions, distortion). Pirelli is also quite corrupt – we see him attempting to coerce Sweeney into sharing profits (blackmail).
Kidnapping: Joanna was a victim of circumstance, and one can ask why was she so terrified and sad – what did the judge do behind closed doors? Anthony is also quite gullible and his “stealing” of Johanna also raises questions.
Mental illness: Sweeney’s wife suffers from mental illness and is slain after recognizing her husband. Where was her family? Why did no one help her?
Bad choices: Mrs. Lovett, who practically killed her first husband by feeding him terrible food and giving everything up for Sweeney, who eventually also murdered her.
Murder and cannibalism: Not to mention Sweeney’s involvement in heinous killings and Mrs. Lovett using the bodies in her pies and feeding them to the people of London.
In the Victorian London, the barber Benjamin Barker is married to the gorgeous Lucy and they have a lovely child, Johanna. The beauty of Lucy attracts the attention of the corrupt Judge Turpin, who falsely accuses the barber of a crime that he did not commit. The judge assaults Lucy later when he lures her to his home under false pretenses. After fifteen years in exile, Benjamin returns to London under the new identity of Sweeney Todd, seeking revenge against Turpin. He meets the widow Mrs. Lovett who is the owner of a meat pie shop who tells him that Lucy swallowed arsenic many years ago, and Turpin assigned himself guardian of Johanna. He opens a barber shop above her store, initiating a crime rampage against those who made him suffer and lose his beloved family.
Adolfo Pirelli (Sasha Baron Cohen) and Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp)’s shaving contest
The multi-talented Jamie Campbell Bower singing
Mrs Lovett and Sweeney Todd sings “The worst pies in London”