If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Sweeney Todd is a masterpiece of musical theater, mixing high drama and terrifying situations with some of the darkest comedy you'll get anywhere. It stands to reason that this sort of thing should be adapted to the screen by somebody like director Tim Burton, and he did a marvelous job at it. A lot of things had to be changed to make it work as a modern-day musical, but the changes work and the things that aren't changed are adapted beautifully.
The story is of a barber named Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp), returning home from being framed and thrown in prison, now going by the name Sweeney Todd. He finds when he returns that his family has been destroyed by Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman), the man who imprisoned him. He decides that with the help of Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), a pie maker living in the bakery under his old barbershop, he can take revenge not only on the judge but on the society that allowed it all to happen.
The biggest difference between the show and the film is that the show is much more of a comedy. To be sure, the show has the exact same ending as the film, which is dark and dramatic, but it doesn't take itself as seriously as the film. But the fact that the film does take itself seriously actually brings a whole new level of emotion to the musical. Several songs or parts of songs had to be cut to help it flow better on the screen. As much as I hate to see the songs go, as a fan of the stage show, it does work. What makes the songs work even more is the fact that almost everyone involved had never had professional musical training before and yet every single one of them pulls it off brilliantly. They went for great actors instead of great singers and they proved how great they were by becoming great singers. Even Timothy Spall does a decent job with the one line he's given, if you can imagine that.
The film is dark, dreary and practically in black-and-white. It helps to set the mood as almost a 1930s classical horror film with a modern twist to it. That and the extra score written for the film is akin to that same period while still staying with the mood of the rest of the music. The only real break from the macabre is even more macabre with vibrant crimson blood splattering the set with each kill. This is an extremely bloody film, as it should be. It goes way over the top with the blood squirting everywhere, sometimes adding to the intensity of the scene and other times adding to the comedy. All of the violence is brutal and each kill is interesting in its own right.
Above all, the story is in tact. It's a very depressing story of love, lust, death and revenge, and the emotion is breathtaking. It keeps you on the edge of your seat, even if you've seen it a million times. The way everything comes to a head in the end is tragic, and its all done remarkably. If you don't like musicals, then you're not going to like this regardless. But if you do, and you have a strong stomach, it's absolutely a must-see film.