Monday, October 22, 2007

Unoriginal Observation of the Day

Dear studio that produced Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd movie:

If you don't want to admit that this movie is a musical, then why did you put up tens of millions of dollars for Tim Burton to make a musical?

Seriously, though, I know that a lot of trailers for musicals do their damnedest to disguise the fact that they're musicals; it's not just this one. The thing is that I don't believe it works. It would be one thing if these trailers made the movies out to be incredibly interesting non-musicals, but they don't; the new Sweeney trailer (the first without any singing whatsoever) doesn't make the movie look like a particularly exciting period horror story.

It seems to me that the best way to do a trailer for a musical is to show brief excerpts from the musical numbers. That's basically what movie musical trailers did in the days when movie musicals were common; they wouldn't show a lot of any one number, but they would show just enough to make the songs, and the performances, a selling point (sort of anticipating those TV commercials where we hear one line each from all of Performer X's greatest hits). Of course this might not work as well when you're making a musical with non-musical performers, but I still think it would work better than pretending that a musical can ever look like a good non-musical.

I mean, Grease is not a great movie (though I think it was a better movie than a stage play), but the trailer made it look like a musical, and played up the songs as part of the appeal: "Everything that makes a musical unforgettable." That's how you market a musical -- don't act ashamed of it.

Update: I realize, of course, that the songs from Sweeney Todd are a tougher sell than the songs from Grease, but that's an argument for making a trailer that makes the best case for the songs. They could have done a trailer playing up the comedy songs, or plugging "Not While I'm Around" (which never became a pop hit but which Prince and Sondheim were clearly hoping would be this show's "Send in the Clowns").


wcdixon said...

Why would they do this? Are they thinking they've got such a turd they'll try to fool some idiots into seeing it opening weekend? Who'll then walk out when they discover it's a musical?

Based on this trailer, Sweeny looks like 'From Hell' meets 'Sleepy Hollow'.

Slowjack said...

It reminds me of this trailer I saw for "Dark Victory" that fails to mention that Bette Davis gets sick.

Chuck said...

One rather suspects that Burton's stroke of "genius" in casting non-singers turned out to be just as rock-stupid as everyone knew it would be and...hey, look! Boobs!

Tosy And Cosh said...

I love the trailer. Why?

Because it does feature singing - albeit just a tiny bit. Still, I'm not sure how someone uninitiated could watch this and not realize it's a musical when Depp sings - and not only sings, but sings the biggest musical moment of the show.

Because they don't give away any of the big twists. A Sweeney trailer that doesn't run with the whole canniballism thing? Me impressed.

Becuase the cast looks great and the film looks to be gorgeously done.

Because they make sure to offset the seriousness - cutting the drama of "my right arm" at the end with Lovett's deadpan response.

I'm excited.

Slowjack said...

Tosy/cosh, I wondered what that heck you were talking about, but now I realize that you have seen a different trailer, not the one under discussion and in the original post. The longer trailer does have a little bit of singing.

I will point out, however, that saying it looks gorgeous isn't much praise. All Burton films look great, especially in the trailers. Some of them are really good films, but some of them are not, and in the ones I don't like I often feel the art design has taken precedence over everything else.

Anonymous said...

The most ridiculous thing about pretending that the film is not a musical is that the Browadway production was virtually an opera, with all of the dialogue sung.

bill said...

Because they don't give away any of the big twists. A Sweeney trailer that doesn't run with the whole canniballism thing? Me impressed.

well, crap. Thanks for nothing.