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"Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (2007) - A wrongly-imprisoned barber goes insane and seeks revenge from the people who put him behind bars and took away his family.

Just re-watched Tim Burton’s version of “Sweeney Todd,” and I didn’t like it nearly as much as I did when I saw it at the end of last year. I suppose it’s because it’s nearly impossible for hype to have an effect on my opinion six months later.

From what I’ve heard–since I’m not familiar with the original musical–a few numbers were cut, and it’s obvious. Taste aside, despite whatever your opinion on Burton is, the movie is unevenly paced. Events seem to happen one after the other without any breathing time. Todd comes to London, he’s living with Ms. Lovett, he gains reputation as a barber, he kills people…

Then, instead of more action, we get songs about Ms. Lovett being in love with Todd and other more background information that we should have seen much earlier in the film. That way, when there is more happening on the screen, the action carries more dramatic weight. Otherwise, as is in the film, nothing pushes the story forward other than the musical’s basic story.

In addition, the people that are “full of s—,” as Todd eloquently puts it, don’t come off as relentless and devious. (Even though Burton alludes to Hitchcock by having the Judge watch his adopted daughter through a hole in the wall that’s hidden by a painting, I failed to feel the same uncomfortable vibes that I got when I saw Anthony Perkins spying on Janet Leigh. Maybe it’s because Leigh wasn’t singing, much less a grating song in particular.)

I had disgusting pictures in mind like child molesters, rotting dead animals, and human waste. Instead of these, I saw in the movie a judge condemning a young child to the death penalty, a less-than-attractive assistant to the judge (played by the underrated Timothy Spall), and blood. Are these images really supposed to shake up an audience of the new millennium? Are we supposed to be shocked by such horror?

Clearly, the story doesn’t matter much to most people. All that people seem to concentrate on (myself included when I first saw the movie) is the visual style. Burton continues with his expressionist influences, dark moods, and pale characters. In the end, though, the story just ends up feeling like a soap opera with all the “I love you but can’t have you” going on between Todd and Ms. Lovett and between Joanna and a young sailor in addition to the other issues mentioned above.

A very disappointing failure, to say the least.

Rating: *1/2 out of ****


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