By: Alex Phuong (Two Beers) –
Johnny Depp has had a very interesting career ever since his film debut in the classic Wes Craven horror flick A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Since then, he has collaborated with Tim Burton numerous times, and this famous director essentially made Depp a star. Known for playing characters that have a sense of darkness to them, (including Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands, and Captain Jack Sparrow), Johnny Depp delivered one of his greatest performances in Tim Burton’s adaptation of the famous Broadway musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007). Indeed, this is one of the best modern-day musicals given the unique approach to what a movie musical could be outside of the “sing-songy” quality that have made other movie musicals look like family-friendly outings.
Set in the same city that provided the backdrop for Mary Poppins (1964), Sweeney Todd has a very Gothic tone to it since its art direction and costume design both feel hauntingly beautiful. This film definitely deserved its Academy Award victory for its art direction because it portrays London in the nightmarish tone that characterizes the film’s plot. Colleen Atwood also did a remarkable job designing the costumes even though the winner was Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007). Since Johnny Depp was the star, this film obviously features one of his greatest performances even though the Oscar went to Daniel-Day Lewis for his equally dark role in There Will Be Blood. Helena Bonham Carter also does well as Mrs. Lovett, and Depp and Carter make the perfect duo for secretly committing horrific atrocities. The plot itself is also very original for a musical given the fact that other musicals have a light and cheery tone to them, all of which is the complete opposite of this vengeful tale.
Since this film is about a “demon barber,” it is obviously gory and scary. Audiences need to be prepared to view the “graphic bloody violence” that earned this film its R-rating from the MPAA. That is probably the main reason why some people might not enjoy this film. During its original release in 2007, some audience members complained that they did expect this “horror film” to also be a musical, and they felt as if the advertising campaign misled them into thinking that this would be a film perfect for Halloween. A similar reaction applies to musical-theater lovers who did not expect a movie musical to be filled with chaotic violence. Maybe the “movie musical” and the “horror film genre” don’t necessarily go together…?
Like it or not, Sweeney Todd is still a very unique musical that redefined that genre. This film was also unfortunately one of the last highlights of Johnny Depp’s career because he has been tumbling down a slippery-slope after the success of another Tim Burton film–Alice in Wonderland (2010). Sweeney Todd might not be suitable for everyone, but it will always have an ominous aesthetic quality to it given the visual design of this contentious modern-day musical.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Sweeney Todd incorrectly calls Mrs. Lovett “Mrs. Lovetts” with an “s” (which might have been an intentional error from Johnny Depp)
Take a Drink: every time any of the characters sing the name “Johanna.”
Take a Drink: for every black-and-white costume that earned Colleen Atwood her Academy Award nomination
Take a Drink: for every shiny blade that is one of Sweeney Todd’s “friends”
Take a Drink: for every meat pie that Mrs. Lovett bakes
Drink a Shot: for every jump scare