Symphony of Destruction

Last night I got to see a free sneak preview screening of Sweeny Todd, and now I find myself in the impossible position of having to try to review it.

How does one review a musical?  The nuanced, realistic acting? No.  The plot? Not really.  I guess all you can say whether you enjoyed watching it or not, and I enjoyed Sweeny Todd.  I’ll admit I thought it was a pretty odd choice to cast a musical with a bunch of actors who can’t sing, and at first listening to Johnny and Helena try to belt out the tunes was disconcerting and a smidge cringe-inducing.  But by the end  Johnny will have you convinced that HE is “America’s Next RockStar Idol” and you’ll be wondering when his album is coming out.

Johnny is wonderful in this, so I feel wrong for saying this but really, I’m getting a little sick of Johnny Depp.  It’s POTC’s fault.  Ever since he turned into the Hot Topic dreamboy and I started seeing his face on cereal boxes and lifesized cardboard cutouts EVERYwhere I go, I just really need a break from him.  I’m especially sick of seeing him in Tim Burton movies, playing the Romanti-Gothy, pretty-yet-off-kilter, tourtured and/or zany, misunderstood hero.  He just needs to do something ELSE.  But, the past memory of all those other parts informs Johnny’s Sweeny with tragedy and pathos.  He’s like all those other Gothy boys, but years later after time and disillusionment and real life have caught up with them.  He is their natural culmination.  Or put it this way:  Sweeny Todd is to Edward Scissor Hands as (John Cusack’s) Martin Blank is to Llyod Dobler.

Visually, Sweeny Todd is sumptous…no surprises there…Tim Burton is the master visual storyteller of our time. He was born to direct this movie.  I literally (and I really mean that) cannot imagine how it could have been made by anyone else. Sweeny is like a total immersion experience…if you open up and get past the singing, it will take you away completely to another, fully-realized place.  A dark, unpleasant place, but Burton allows none of banal real life to invade his perfect vision of Sweeny’s world…that’s why i love the man so much.

As for the story, well it’s a pretty simple one:  broken man snaps and starts killing everybody.  :)   But I was pleasantly surprised at the how multi-dimensional the characters were for a musical.  Everything is not all black and white (and red) in Sweeny Todd.  There are some very funny moments, but there are elements of the genuinely tragic.  And it will NOT end like you expect it to…can’t explain more without giving it away.

Bottom line is: See it.

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