The 'Sweeney Todd' trailers: What kind of movie are they trying to sell?

When Sweeney Todd hits theaters on December 21, I wonder how many people will be aware that it is an adaptation of a popular musical — a musical so full of singing that it is occasionally performed by opera companies. The TV spots for Sweeney are doing their best to make the film look like SleepyBeetleScissorhands: emphasizing Johnny Depp’s gothic look (the hair helps), the Danny Elfman-esque score, and Tim Burton’s name prominently displayed at the beginning of every spot. If I didn’t know that this was a Stephen Sondheim show, I might disregard the brief snatches of song in some of the ads as a campy Corpse Bride/Beetle Juice type of thing. The commercial below is a typical example:

Now, compare the non-musical spot with the following "Broadway!" version:

All of sudden, Tim Burton’s name is relegated to the oddly upbeat voice-over describing the film as the "holiday event of the season" while Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter sing and dance. I haven’t seen this one on TV yet — I’d be interested to see what kind of shows it gets attached to.

The commercials that hide the singing are crafty enough that they might lure a good number of unsuspecting folks just looking for another Tim Burton/Johnny Depp film. The real puzzle is whether or not they will like what they see and hear. Sweeney is no doubt a great match for Burton’s sensibilities, but most people don’t take kindly to being tricked.

Are you planning to see Sweeney? How would you feel if you showed up for a bloody, horror/comedy and got the following scene instead?

Comments (101 total) Add your comment
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  • Amy

    I *was* kinda wanting to see this based on an EW article a couple of weeks ago. The last clip might have scared me off tho.

  • bud

    Why should this even be an issue? Why are people “scared off” by actors singing? If you like Tim Burton/Johnny Depp go see it. Nothing is going to happen to you if you sit through a musical.

  • JK

    I’ve seen the second commercial on tv. Many times. Most of the clips I see on tv feature singing.
    If people are thrown off by the singing, it’s their loss. This is one of the most engrossing, complex, dark, layered and absolutely stunning shows ever to be put on the stage, and it’ss hardly a “typical” musical. If Burton manages to come even close to the original (and by all accounts, it seems he does), then audiences are in for a real treat.

  • stephen

    I don’t mind the singing. I have a weak stomach for violence, so I may be more put off with how graphic it may be. And anyone who walks in to the theater without knowing what a movie is about or what genre it is deserves to lose their money. It’s not hard to look in the newspaper.

  • usagi-chan

    I’m aware enough of popular culture to know that Sweeney Todd is a musical sometimes performed by opera companies. You must think we’re all a bunch of mindless idiots incapable of higher thought or, for that matter, using the Internet to research things we’re interested in. Give us a little credit; that is if you intend for us to keep reading your magazine and visiting this site without fear of having our intelligence insulted.

  • Kate

    In many interviews (including EW’s) Tim Burton wasn’t going to make the film unless “there is lots and lots of blood”. Now granted I haven’t seen it, but I don’t think we’ll be disappointed. I think any decent movie-goer would know that this is based off the musical; in turn singing will be in it. Did not Moulin Rouge and Chicago hit it big on the big screens? I rest my case.

  • Rachel K

    I’ve actually seen the singing commercial on TV as well but only a handful of times. I understand why people feel that it’s being misrepresented on TV but that’s what movie reviews and newspaper articles and websites are for. If people can’t be bothered to read about the film and hence find out it’s a musical/opera then they deserve what they get in my opinion. Oh, and I love Johnny Depp and Tim Burton but I’ve been kinda skeptical about seeing the movie cuz I just wasn’t sure how Johnny Depp’s voice would be. I’m over my fears thanks to the last clip and will definitely see this when it comes to theatres!!

  • Shana

    The same thing happened last year with Dreamgirls. I had many friends who didn’t know it was based on a Broadway musical and the “trick” made them hate the movie. I think the same thing will happen again. The first thing each of these commercials should say is “based on the award-winning musical” so people know and can decide if they want to see it.

  • Rebecca

    I saw a screening of the film about a week ago, and was surprised that most of the audience didn’t know going in that it was a musical. There is actually very little dialogue in the film! And it is VERY bloody, although the blood itself looks almost cartoonish. Fantastic film, though – and Johnny Depp can really sing!

  • Jason

    First of all, I’m really excited to see this. Secondly, there are definitely going to be people out there who don’t know it’s a musical. I think that kind of advertising is crass and I just have to remember to seperate the art from the business of film. I also hate it when foreign movies are advertised without any dialogue, therefore trying to hide the fact that it is in a different language. I don’t get it. I despise this kind of stuff.

  • Michael

    I knew it was a musical, as would any culturally literate person, but I’d never have known it from the trailers and commercials I’ve seen. My intense dislike of musicals will be overcome by my admiration for the director and cast, so I’ll definitely see it.

  • movcritic

    There are a frightening number of people who walk into a theater, look at the show board and pick whatever movie is starting soonest — they have no idea what the film is about (hence, the people who walked out of “Life is Beautiful” because it had subtitles).
    Now, I have seen “Sweeney Todd” and I can honestly say my first reaction was: “I *loved* this. … And it’s probably the perfect film for about 12 other people in the country.” I love musicals; I love Burton & Depp together. I was not disappointed. However, it’s important to note this is NOT a “Chicago”-style musical. Characters don’t pause for musical numbers — the whole FILM is a musical number. I’m sure there will be many people who don’t get it, are turned off by it or who just plain hate it, but I for one am a fan.
    As for the blood? Let’s just say you will not be disappointed…

  • Marie

    Well, I happen to be a big musical theatre fan, and I think this is one of the strangest (npi) choices of shows to make into a movie, because not only is it very legit music, but Sondheim is just so…inaccessible to the casual listener. (Not like Hairspray, for example, which is full of catchy tunes.) I think people are going to hate it as soon as they hear the bizarre, often antimelodic music.

  • Ceegee

    I know it is a musical (DUH) but from what I saw in the commercials, I was wondering if Tim Burton was trying to make it less musical. I mean Oliver Twist was done with and without. Glad to know the music remains, so I will probably see it.

  • fearsome penguin

    I adore Sweeney Todd, but I totally agree with Marie about it being less accessible than Hairspray and other musicals like it. In fact I know a few huge fans of musicals that hate Sweeney Todd- it just depends on what you like. I think a lot of people will see it because of Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, and Helena Bonham Carter, plus the promise of blood. I’m not going to see it though, because as much as I like listening to the music, I really am squeamish and don’t want to see the macabre subject matter played out in the gruesome fashion promised.

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