Saturday, April 19, 2008

Movie Log: Sweeney Todd

I've always felt that I should be a Sondheim fan, but, for various reasons -- mostly having to do with being a hermit who doesn't get out to see shows all that often -- it's pretty much remained on that level. Whenever I hear a bit of Sondheim, or read reviews of new shows and revivals, I think "Yes, that certainly does sound like my kind of thing." And I leave it at that.

There have been at least two productions of Sweeney Todd on Broadway that I could have seen, and maybe more, but I've seen none of them. So this is my first substantial exposure to Sondheim -- once it's in a form that comes to my door, I'm on it.

The Wife and I watched Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd film last Saturday night, and I came away with a better impression of the material than of the execution. As usual with a Burton film, the visuals were stunning and the iconography amazing; this is a movie that looks spectacular.

The script is equally good, and most of the actors are excellent. (Jamie Campbell Bower, as the young lover Anthony, is a bit too much, but I suspect that's mostly the way the part is written.) Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are particularly strong in acting the lead roles of Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett.

Unfortunately, neither Depp nor Bonham Carter are trained singers, and it really shows. They speak-sing most of their parts, and forfeit much of the potential power of the work along the way. (This is a movie that really calls out for an old-fashioned Hollywood solution -- have real singers, secretly and uncredited, sing for the inadequate actors.) They're not bad singers -- they're always adequate and occasionally better than that -- but these are songs that really good singers could have dug into and done something spectacular with.

So the movie of Sweeney Todd is quite impressive -- it's a work of real power -- but I was left wondering what it could have been if it had singers worthy of the material.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is at least the second musical that Depp has been in to my knowledge. He also played the lead in John Water's Cry Baby.

Post a Comment