Friday, December 21, 2007

The Demon Barber and the Diabolical Diplomats

December 21, 2007

Sometimes I'm glad I'm not officially a movie critic. The debut of the new film Sweeney Todd starring Johnny Depp is one of those times.

Much as I almost literally adore Johnny Depp, I'm going to pass on this one. A friend of mine observed that I don't like musicals, which really isn't true. I love Carousel and Guys and Dolls and Gypsy and Company and ever so many others. I know revealing this list dates me, but so be it. When the Brits came into town with the "revolutionary" first musical on roller skates, I thought it a fluke and haven't liked very much since. This means I don't get excited about anything by Andrew Lloyd Weber or really much of anything that comes from across the pond. I was particularly repulsed by the idea of Len Cariou and Angela Lansbury doing a Victorian song-and-dance about murdering people and baking their remains into pies.

When I lived in Geneva, I was thrown with a lot of Brits, for whom the tale of Sweeney Todd was a deliciously evil delight. It was a straight stage play -- apparently an old chestnut in England -- before it was made into the musical that has now been embraced by the dynamic duo of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.

I am enraptured by Johnny Depp, both the man and his work, and have been from the first moment I laid eyes on him as the bizarre Edward Scissorhands. An actor with extraordinary gifts and a decidedly offbeat tendency to pick challenging and difficult roles, he is to be admired for taking this one on. And according to experts who have seen it he and his director are up to the task. They make more of the material than anyone else would have dared try.

It's just still not my thing. I'll watch clips and excerpts, but I'm not one for such dark and frightening works, and I have no doubt these two guys would scare the socks off me. I wish them all the best this time, but they'll take the trip without me.

I'd be more interested in the entertaining Charlie Wilson's War, with Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts in a ridiculously unflattering wig, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. A trio of the best actors and most appealing movie stars (almost up there with Johnny Depp, as a matter of fact). Based on a book by the late George Crile, it's about the U.S. Congressman in the 1980's who funneled money to the resistance fighters in Afghanistan and the people who surrounded him. With this cast, it can't help but be a delight to view.

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