Yesterday I took place in what could be considered the quintessential American pastime: that is, I went to the movies with four other people, one of whom I knew (that would be my friend Shari). And, as is typical with Americans, we saw a Johnny Depp movie, because Johnny Depp is as American as cherry pie and foxy boxing. If the United States is destroyed via nuclear holocaust tomorrow, you can bet that future generations of human life will remember us all as “those stupid rednecks and Johnny Depp”. I don’t really know why. All I know is, there’s something very… American, about the patriotic semi-manly super-sexiness that is Mr. Depp.
Thus we saw Sweeney Todd, which belongs squarely in the “crazy homicidal barber” genre of American cinema. This is a new genre for Depp, whose previous movies tended more to the “androgynous pirates who wear makeup but have bad teeth” or “slightly neurotic monster barber with a sensitive side” modes of thought. True, he has also converged on the “crazy homicidal writer” category with his The Secret Window, which would seem in theory to be similar in concept to Todd, but in reality this was a brave new world for him. This is his first ever movie where Severus Snape had an important role.
(Warning: The following review contains lots of spoilers, such as SEVERUS SNAPE IS IN THE MOVIE AND JOHNNY DEPP IS SWEENEY TODD!!!1 Also, I give a synopsis of the entire story, from the start to the finish, which basically just boils down to HOLY SHIT THAT’S A LOT OF BLOOD. Please be advised.
Everybody died at the end of Sweeney Todd. I felt that there are other Johnny Depp movies where this would have been more appropriate. For example, when I saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory I was extremely disappointed in the Oompa Loompas, who, let’s face it, were pale shadows of the artistic geniuses who waddled onto movie screens in the 1960s. I would not have been troubled in the least had they been turned into Wonka Bars or something. However, I suppose that it is not entirely inappropriate that the cast of Sweeney Todd dies in the movie, as the cast of any musical deserves to die, something that was proven in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic irritant Cats.
The movie was classically laid out. At the start, Todd and some sailor start singing. This lasts approximately three hours, because the movie is, in fact, a musical. Then Todd travels to a very shitty restaurant that only sells shitty meat pies and rum. The woman inside gives him his barber tools, which have miraculously suffered absolutely no rust or water damage in the fifteen years that Todd has supposedly been in prison. The sailor ogles some chick, who it turns out is Sweeney Todd’s daughter, who has been in the possession of the same judge who both sentenced Todd to jail and raped his wife. Now, the judge wants to marry the girl, who becomes so crazy that she decides that she wants to spend her life with the sailor, who for all she knows has every sexually transmitted disease known to man and a dozen wives on all seven continents.
The barber dude gets into a barber battle with a man who beats orphans and who clearly puts very large zucchinis in his pants. Todd wins despite not having practiced barbery in one and a half decades, and zucchini man is forced to pay him a few quid, or whatever British people call pounds. However, all is not well; it turns out that zucchini man decides to blackmail Sweeney into giving him back his money. Todd kills him, leading Todd to his new job: that is, running a pretend barber shop in which he kills people for meat, which meat pie lady uses to–what else–make meat zucchinis for poorly-endowed men to put in their pants.
No, seriously, she uses it for pies. To conclude this unique plotline, Todd kills the judge, the sailor gets the girl out of the insane asylum, Todd kills the judge’s assistant, the orphan is asked to deliver a letter for Todd (who can apparently read and write despite being an exceedingly-poor barber in 1890s London), Todd kills his wife because she’s homeless and then kills meat pie lady by throwing her in her oven, and the orphan kills Todd with his barber tools.
The movie ends there, leading to many tantalizing questions, and no, I’m not suggesting that one of them is “What the hell was Johnny Depp thinking getting involved in a snuff film?” No, the real questions, the important ones anyway, are “what does this movie suggest about the futility of life and death?”, “what happens to the orphan and the sailor and the girl?”, “how many sexually transmitted diseases did the sailor have, anyway?”, and the perennial favorite “how could the filmmaker have gotten more violence and gore into this already wonderfully violent and gory film?”
In spite of the questions it posed and its generally high-quality violence, audience reaction was mixed; for example, most of the audience appeared to react in stunned silence, although at least one almost-certainly fat woman in the back laughed every time Depp slashed somebody’s throat. Shari, as an example of the general audience, wanted to see the movie because Johnny Depp was in it. She was stunned. All of the talk about meat pies made me hungry. Her friend Stacey thought that it was mildly amusing. I asked her for her phone number.
Thus, as the singing ended and the screen darkened, I was left a wiser and possibly more terrified human being. The movie reminded me of many truths; why I use an electric razor, for example, rather than go to a barber and risk being turned into a meat pie. But it also reminded me of one of the most important human truths: Never eat English food. Especially meat pies.