If there's one musical Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas) is perfectly qualified to direct, it's this one: a dark, gory tale about a murderous London barber.
I often argue that translating musicals—and even plays without music—into films forfeits too much of the magic of the stage. Movies look more "real" than plays; hence, when people inexplicably sing dialogue, it turns my brain to mush. There are moments when Sweeney Todd seems inescapably ridiculous for this reason. But then, it's about a wrongly imprisoned man (Johnny Depp) who, 15 years later, returns to wreak havoc on his former town by slitting the throats of everyone who visits his shop—not the most realistic story to begin with.
Lucky for me, scenes from 1991's The Addams Family and 2004's Jersey Girl prepared me for this film's abundant jugular outpouring. In fact, there's so much blood that the violence becomes comical.
As for the singing, most is pretty good. The range of Depp impresses while Helena Bonham Carter's thick British accent makes a third of her lyrics indecipherable. A genuine surprise is the vocal ability of Borat's Sacha Baron Cohen, whose short-lived performance is brilliant.
This is far from a traditional musical in the same way Tim Burton is far from a traditional director. Obviously, seeing the stage production is recommended over the film, but since New York and London are simply too far away, you have my permission to rent and enjoy this film in the meantime.
This video courtesy of Hollywood Video, 590 Broadway Ave., 208-342-6117.