Thursday, August 7, 2008

Last night with Douglas and the Baxter family to the park cinema to see Sweeney Todd, or the dog’s breakfast Mr Burton made of it. What, in my opinion, was wrong with the film? Practically everything. Let’s start with the pace. The screaming factory whistle and opening chorus, attend the tale of Sweeny Todd, was cut. This is a truly “let’s get on with it” number that sets the whole menacing pace of the demon barber of Fleet Street. If you can explore the streets of Victorian London you can explore its inhabitants and they would make up the chorus. Oh, what Mayhew characters the camera could seek out. Instead though we have a sailing ship moving sedately along. Sailing ships aren’t exactly known for speed, except maybe the clippers, and we have Anthony singing a slow ballad, I have sailed the world, beheld its wonders so that was the pace that was set and, at times it ground down even slower, so slow it was only a few seconds above boring and almost walkout time. But the opening chorus wasn’t the only song cut. Anthony and Joanna’s delightful duet went but that was possibly just as well because when, whoever the girl was playing Joanna, did attempt a song, the result was embarrassing. If ever there was a total no-talent, this definitely was it. Other songs were truncated, for instance when Mrs Lovett tries to tell Sweeney her idea for getting rid of Pirelli, such a nice plump frame, she gets to the tag, oh good, you got it before he’s even has time to digest what she’s on about. Just a shade above Joanna’s attempt was the performance of Miss Bonham Carter. We are talking about dull, boring, expressionless, dead behind the eyes acting here. Was this directorial or did Miss Bonham Carter really not have it in her? Where oh where was the humour Mrs Lovett obviously had. Only a woman with a sense of humour could have fun, macabre though it may be, singing a song that combined murder and cannibalism, naming the various bodies that will go into her meat pies. And why oh why did we have to see them as they were named, starting with the priest and then continuing with the rest. What we should have been looking at were the pies – this one contains priest, (hold it up) this one contains shepherd, (point to it) this one contains, lawyer, this one contains marine, this one contains fop, etcetera. I presume Mr Burton just didn’t trust his audience to know what was going on. No, I’m afraid Miss Bonham Carter for me was just too awful for words though I have to admit the Baxter girls said they thought she was jolly good! Maybe it was the panda black eyes that swayed them. As for the rest of the cast they all seemed somewhat subdued, even Mr Rickman (wasn’t he brilliant in Robin Hood?) and Timothy Spall as the beadle. I’m not too sure about the boy who played Anthony. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt but somehow he just seemed to miss. I did like the boy Toby except in the end his hair should have been snow white from shock. Pirelli wasn’t nearly funny enough considering who was playing it. And so we come to Sweeney himself. I am a terrific fan of Johnny Depp, a truly talented and imaginative actor. I’ve loved every performance of his I have seen but this time I’m afraid not. Too young and too light and no amount of mood lighting was going to create the menace that should have been his. Even the wild slashing of Judge Turpin when Sweeney finally gets his revenge was counter-productive.

I also grew a little bored with Mr Burton’s repetitions, for instance the pulling back from windows and the reflections in the razor. How many times did we see that, four? Five?

No, all in all a musical of brilliance by Mr Sondheim gone for a Burton. Such a shame.

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