The musical is back with a freakin’ vengeance, ready to slice your throat open and revel in the bloody geyser of crimson vomited from your newly incised second smile.

todd2In a Christmas movie season peppered with National Treasures, Legends, and Old Men without Countries; Tim Burton and Johnny Depp slice through the competition like scythes through wheat. Their masterful Sweeney Todd is a movie that evoked horror, longing, murderous revenge and final cathartic release as it swept across the screen.

The story is not a new one. A barber’s wife is taken from him by a judge, who has him unceremoniously thrown into prison at some undisclosed foreign location. On his return, and upon discovering that his wife has poisoned herself and his daughter is now the unwilling ward of the judge, the barber decides to use his blades to a different end by providing shaves much closer than he had in the past. Eventually he is able to extract his revenge upon almost everyone who had wronged him (and a few others, of course).

However, in much the same vein as other movies made from well-worn and widely known stories, much is in the telling. The story is reinvented and resurrected from its freshly-dug grave by the talents of Burton, Depp and Carter.

Johnny Depp continues to prove that, without a doubt, he is one of the most talented, eccentric and visionary actors of his vintage. He plays Todd with a dark, brooding visage and shock of bride-of-frankenstein white hair amongst a forest of forboding black. Although not known as a singer, he appears to pull off the singing numbers very competently.

toddHelena Bonham Carter provides a darkly attractive but even more disturbing feminine mirror to Depp’s Todd. The ghastly chemistry between the two characters is effective and playfully sinister.

A wide supporting cast of excellent actors and actresses accompanies the dark duo, including Alan Rickman, Sacha Baron Cohen, Timothy Pall, Jayne Wisener and Ed Sanders. These provide almost uncriticisable excellence throughout the film.

The music and lyrics were, of course, written by the multi-talented Stephen Sondheim. The music is gorgeous, frightening, moving, veangeful, and excellent. During one particular number, entitled “Beautiful Girls” and sung as a duet between Todd and Rickman’s Judge, I found myself moved to goosebumps by both the beauty and co-existant salacity, enterwoven by Sondheim’s gifted hands.

A harmony of opposites is perhaps the best way to define this film. It is both beautiful and terrible, gorgeous and profane.

I give it *** 1/2 Jessicas out of 4. Almost perfect. . . .

EK

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