Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Depp gets bloody stroppy

I went to see Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street this evening and jolly good gory fun it was too. I knew I'd enjoy it even before I went as Tim Burton rarely lets me down (although Planet of the Apes was a stain on his otherwise spotless duvet) and Johnny Depp is always entertaining. The small ensemble cast shone equally brightly; Alan Rickman was suitably sneering and nasty, Helena Bonham-Carter exuded her usual wide-eyed, just-been-pulled-through-a-hedge-and-ravaged-by-the-Lord-of-the-manor sex appeal (have you ever seen her with normal hair? Ever?) and Sacha Baron-Cohen was camp, silly and had obviously placed a large courgette down the front of his pantaloons. That, or those floating black bars that covered his modesty during Borat's naked man fight were really and truly modest. Star of the show for me though was the ghastly and pompous Beadle played by Timothy Spall who was born to play such roles looking, as he does, like a George Cruikshank or Thomas Rowlandson cartoon made flesh.

Blood was the order of the day and there was plenty of it. Our sensitivities were not spared as Depp's vengeful, anguished tonsorialist tore his way through the throats of old London Town. The music was well orchestrated ... although Sondheim has never been a favourite of mine. While he does write some terrific lines, his tunes always come across as a bit samey to me and, like any show I've ever seen of his, I left the cinema unable to remember a single tune.
Many adverts seem to be saying that this is Depp's first singing performance - have these people never seen La Bamba or the excellent John Waters musical Cry Baby? Depp can sing ... but I didn't realise that la Bonham-Carter was quite so gifted. Nor Misters Rickman and Spall, so a pleasant surprise all round. And the three youngest performers - Jamie Campbell Bower, Jayne Wisener and Ed Sanders were superb, especially Sanders as young Toby - fantastic voice.

So, in summary, great performances, stunning visuals (soooo Tim Burton), dark humour, lashings of gore and unmemorable songs. See it. You'll like it. But don't buy the soundtrack.

All of which begs a question I've asked many times ... why doesn't Hollywood make more musicals? We all love 'em. When you consider that the glory days of the musical were over 50 years ago, aren't we due a resurgence of interest? Every musical since the 1940s seems to have done well at the box office - think of Little Shop of Horrors, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Grease, and, most recently, Hairspray. Okay, so Madonna's Evita didn't do so well and neither did Phantom of the Opera - but that may be more to do with Lloyd-Webber than Hollywood (I don't like many of his tunes either). But even pseuso-musicals like Moulin Rouge and The Nightmare before Christmas have been huge successes. There must be a welter of composers and librettists out there champing at the bit to give us a new Wizard of Oz or Singin' in the Rain.

Come on Hollywood! If Westerns can make a comeback, let's see some more Musicals too.

4 comments:

Me said...

Fantastic pun and well written film critique. Jonathon Woss should be wowwied!

Stevyn Colgan said...

This by email from my friend Huw yesterday ...

'The poster for the film contains a blooper. Through the window you can clearly see rising through the thick London fog the impressively phallic Big Ben (or the clock tower that houses the bell which is called Big Ben if you want to be pedantic). The story of Sweeney Todd (Whether fictitious or not) is set sometime between 1800 and 1846, yet the aforementioned clock tower was not fully constructed until 1858. So there.'

Nicely pointed out? Any words of explanation Mr Burton?

asparkly said...

I would like to point out that this would be Johnny Depp's first singing role. In the ever-campy Cry-Baby he was dubbed and did a fine job of lip-syncing. La Bamba? Really? That piece of 80's wanna be 60's theater work starred a young Lou Diamond Phillips. In preperation for his first vocally challenging film Johnny rehersed the songs with none other than the original composer Steven Sondheim. The result is easy to see: Johnny can sing! (We just didn't know it until now)

Stevyn Colgan said...

I stand corrected! Yes, you're right about 'La Bamba' (I hated the film anyway - probably why I onlyhave vague recollections of it). But I didn't realise that Mr Depp was Mr Dubbed in 'Cry Baby'. Thanks Asparkly!