Much like Coraline, I can’t believe I never got around to seeing this. It’s Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall (aren’t they always so good together?). Colleen Atwood bringing her usual magic to the costumes. And it’s based on a Stephen Sondheim musical (hence why I wanted the damn soundtrack immediately – and I’m usually of of “meh” about musicals).
Depp plays Todd, a former barber seeking to fall back into his former trade as a cover for murderous revenge against those responsible for locking him up in prison. Rickman plays the judge who abused his power to imprison Todd, having done so out if jealousy of unrequited love for Todd’s wife. Worse still, he’s only gone and adopted Todd’s only child, a daughter who Todd never knew before. Now, 15 years later, she’s all (relatively) grown up.
Todd rents a room from pie-peddler Mrs. Lovett (Bonham-Carter) who, by her own admission, serves up the ghastliest meat pastries in the world. Given Todd’s newfound, Taxi Driver-esque hatred of society and murderous intentions, and Mrs Lovett’s piss-poor pasties, the two cook up the clearly obvious solution to use Todd’s necky-slashy cadavers to make meat pies because something about it being a man-eat-man world. And…waste not, want not, Sort of like Jamie Oliver’s recipes where he tells you to use the bones from your leftover chicken drumsticks.
All goes cannibal-tastic until Todd’s bloodlust starts getting out of hand, and the makeshift couple’s new ward (Edward Sanders) begins to have an icky feeling about all this.
I’ve never seen the musical, so I can’t compare. This is probably not true for most viewers but I always find the first few songs in a movie musical to be a bit jarring, because they feel like pointless interludes from the real plot. I know it’s a musical, but it’s different to live musical theatre. But I loved the songs.
Though the tricky thing about movie musical adaptations is that you need someone who can both sing and act, as well as carry off the character’s accent. Depp can sing better than I thought, and he can certainly act, and his London accent is leaps and bounds ahead of those dreadful Cockney mouthfarts he did in From Hell.
Bonham-Carter is the same, but her singing attempts are marred by the nasal way she alters her speech patterns for her accent, and it makes the high notes a thing of terror. Sacha Baron Cohen is a way better singer than I thought he was, but the star of the show is Sanders.
His accent makes him sound like a typical wee little imp from Oliver!, and his singing is just spectacular. The song he shares with Mrs Lovett is oddly abs refreshingly poignant. Just…damn.
Because it’s Burton, is safe to say the visuals are suitably eye-popping. Sets are grimy and bare and cavernous and dripping with doom. Also: blood, which literally spurts everywhere like somebody made Campari, cherry, strawberry and blood smoothies but didn’t put the lid on the blender all the way. You’ve got to push it firmly until you hear the little click.
The aforementioned costumes are instantly-cosplayable works of art. Every other scene feels like it needs to be screencapped, they’re that well- blocked. It all adds up to a ghoulish concoction of a film that is fun to watch, but never once celebrates or glamorises the literal bloodbaths on display. Now excuse me while I go sing “Pretty women” to nobody.