Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007 Film) - Release - Critical Reception

Critical Reception

Although Stephen Sondheim was cautious of a cinematic adaptation of his musical, he was largely impressed by the results. The film received critical acclaim — the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 86% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 219 reviews, and Metacritic gave the film an average score of 83 out of 100, based on 39 reviews. Sweeney Todd appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2007.

Of the reviewers, Time rated it an A-minus and added, "Burton and Depp infuse the brilliant cold steel of Stephen Sondheim's score with a burning passion. Helena Bonham Carter and a superb supporting cast bring focused fury to this musical nightmare. It's bloody great." Time's Richard Corliss named the film one of its top ten movies of 2007, placing it fifth. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it four stars out of four, lauding Burton's visual style. In his review in Variety, Todd McCarthy called it "both sharp and fleet" and "a satisfying screen version of Stephen Sondheim's landmark 1979 theatrical musical ... things have turned out uniformly right thanks to highly focused direction by Tim Burton, expert screw-tightening by scenarist John Logan, and haunted and musically adept lead performances from Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. Assembled artistic combo assures the film will reap by far the biggest audience to see a pure Sondheim musical, although just how big depends on the upscale crowd’s tolerance for buckets of blood, and the degree to which the masses stay away due to the whiff of the highbrow." Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B-plus in its Movie Reviews section and stated, "To stage a proper Sweeney Todd, necks must be slit, human flesh must be squished into pastries, and blood ought to spurt in fountains and rivers of death. Enter Tim Burton, who ... has tenderly art-directed soup-thick, tomato-red, fake-gore blood with the zest of a Hollywood-funded Jackson Pollock." She went on to refer to the piece as "opulent, attentive ... so finely minced a mixture of Sondheim's original melodrama and Burton's signature spicing that it's difficult to think of any other filmmaker so naturally suited for the job."

In its DVD Reviews section, EW's Chris Nashawaty gave the film an A-minus, stating, "Depp's soaring voice makes you wonder what other tricks he's been hiding... Watching Depp's barber wield his razors... it's hard not to be reminded of Edward Scissorhands frantically shaping hedges into animal topiaries 18 years ago... and all of the twisted beauty we would've missed out on had never met." In Rolling Stone, Peter Travers awarded it 3½ out of 4 stars and added, "Sweeney Todd is a thriller-diller from start to finish: scary, monstrously funny and melodically thrilling ... is a bloody wonder, intimate and epic, horrific and heart-rending as it flies on the wings of Sondheim's most thunderously exciting score." As with Time, the critic ranked it fifth on his list of the best movies of 2007. Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter said, "The blood juxtaposed to the music is highly unsettling. It runs contrary to expectations. Burton pushes this gore into his audiences' faces so as to feel the madness and the destructive fury of Sweeney's obsession. Teaming with Depp, his long-time alter ego, Burton makes Sweeney a smoldering dark pit of fury and hate that consumes itself. With his sturdy acting and surprisingly good voice, Depp is a Sweeney Todd for the ages." Harry Knowles gave the film a highly positive review, calling it Burton's best film since Ed Wood, his favorite Burton film, and said it was possibly superior. He praised all of the cast and the cinematography, but noted it would probably not appeal to non-musical fans due to the dominance of music in the film.

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