By Leah Rozen Lesley Messer
December 24, 2007 12:00 PM

Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Sacha Baron Cohen | R |

CRITIC’S CHOICE

MUSICAL

The blood flows as freely as the songs do in Sweeney Todd. It’s a slasher musical, filled with soaring Stephen Sondheim tunes and arterial spurting. Unhinged after being wrongly imprisoned, a barber (Depp) causes everything to go crimson when he returns to 18th-century London and begins slitting the throats of his customers. His chirpy paramour (Carter) then grinds up the corpses to serve as filling for the meat pies she sells.

This may be a musical, but absolutely don’t take the kids. Do go yourself, though, because Sweeney Todd is thrilling. In making his inspired, albeit bloody, version of the 1979 Broadway hit, director Tim Burton (Sleepy Hollow) brilliantly contravenes the accepted Hollywood wisdom that a movie must “open up” a stage show. Burton instead refashions the sprawling musical into an intimate chamber piece, bringing his camera in close so a character’s every emotion shows. The result is exhilaratingly cinematic while remaining true to the original’s intent. Depp and Carter—his singing voice is far stronger than hers—make for a comically macabre pair: he filled with bottomless sorrow and wrath; she with romantic longing.

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