If you thought the movie musical needs more gore and gloom, your perfect movie has arrived! Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street has leaped from the theater to the big screen, and star Johnny Depp and director Tim Burton work their magic to create another dark tale.

Sweeney Todd begins like a typical revenge story. A flashback shows Benjamin Barker (Depp) living an idyllic life in London with his wife Lucy (Laura Michelle Kelley) and baby girl Johanna, until the corrupt and degenerate Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) had Parker arrested and deported to get to Lucy. Fifteen years later Barker returns as Sweeney Todd, appearing as a gothic apparition -- pale skin, wild black hair with a white streak, dark circles under his eyes -- and learning that Lucy poisoned herself after Turpin raped her and Johanna (Jayne Wisener) is the ward of Turpin.

Todd goes mad and gets even. He joins forces with a fellow gothic dweller of the slums, the darkly cheerful Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), whose claim to make "the worst pies in London" is hard to dispute. Todd finds his silver-handled razor blades and repoens his barber shop, hoping to get his enemies in the chair for a little slicing and dicing. Todd isn't too picky about his victims, as he puts his belief that everyone deserves to die to practice. Mrs. Lovett is a very happy accomplice, finding a most nauseating means of disposing of the bodies.

There is a subplot where young sailor Anthony (Jamie Campbell Bower), the young sailor who rescued Todd from the ocean, falls in love with Johanna and wants to rescue and marry her.. There's also the young boy Toby (Ed Sanders) is informally adopted by Mrs. Lovett after his abusive employer, the preening, pompous barner Signor Aldolfo Pirelli (Sascha Baron Cohen), is dispatched by Todd. But the focus of Sweeney Todd is the dark quest of Todd to get his revenge on the evil Judge Turpin -- and more or less anyone else he meets.

The music here is as cheerful as the film is dark. Rather than slow gloomy dirges, Sweeney Todd features grim songs with a quick tempo and frequent dark humor (such as when Todd sings a love song about his daughter while slitting throats). Director Tim Burton gets the most from his excellent cast, resulting in energy and mania through the grizzly proceedings. There are no heroes here -- Todd will kill just about anyone, and the romantics Anthony and Johanna seem naively optimistic against the dark backdrop of London -- but for gallows humor, Sweeney Todd delivers. You won't feel hopeful at the end of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street -- but you will feel entertained.

Overall grade: A

Reviewed by James Lynch

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