Movie Reviews: "National Treasure II" And "Sweeney Todd"
Today was another "two movie" day; I saw the midnight showing of "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" and the noon showing of "Sweeney Todd". I was going to make it a triple-header with "Walk Hard" but ended up taking a nap instead.
Both movies I saw were OK. "National Treasure" started out with a real treat -- a no-crap "short" in the old "Goofy Over Sports" genre; this one had Goofy hooking up a home theater. (Being a jaded 21st century kind of guy, I kept expecting it to be full of product placement, or actually turn out to be a commercial. It ended up just being a funny cartoon.) The main feature suffered from a lot of the same problems you see in other sequels -- the need to do things just like the original movie, only more spectacular. I loved the original movie, and liked the characters, but this movie ended up taking away somehow from the original -- the characters (mostly) became less likeable. The movie also fell into the most common archeological film blunder -- the heroes exited the heretofore "undiscovered" treasurehouse through an obvious entry that surely would have attracted someone's attention throughout the centuries. (The most heinous example of this, of course, is in "Raiders of the Lost Ark", where a solitary building in the middle of the excavation area is one wall away from the Well of Souls, and no one has apparently bothered to check it out.) Overall, the movie would be a good standalone film, suffering only in comparison to the original, and gets a solid three Unsubtle Sequel Setups out of five. (Expect "National Treasure III: What's On Page 47?" in 2010.)
I was really looking forward to "Sweeney Todd" -- I'm a big fan of musicals, and had seen a production of this one in college back in the '80s. Being a Tim Burton film, it had really impressive camera work and mood-defining colors; unfortunately, it also had Burton's girlfriend in a leading role -- she's a fine actress, it just turns out that she can't really sing. Johnny Depp, on the other hand, can sing fine -- expect an Oscar nomination. "Sweeney Todd" is an interesting musical in that none of the songs has really entered the mainstream; it doesn't have a real "sing-along" quality to it anyway. The movie sticks very close to the story of the play, except it's a lot more graphic in the violence area -- well deserving of the "R" rating. The supporting cast was pretty good, featuring Borat, Snape, and Wormtail. With the exception of getting better singers, Burton probably did as well as anyone could with the story, but let's face it -- it's no "Mary Poppins". I give it a more squishy three Unexplained White Hair Streaks out of five.