Little Shop of Horrors Review
Written by Jacob Coad
Hello Media Fans, my name is Jacob, and as the guest writer for this post, I thought I could do a review on a film adaptation of a well-known stage musical. ^^ Before Aladdin, before Beauty and the Beast, and before The Little Mermaid, Howard Ashman and Alan Menken worked together on an Off-Broadway rock musical titled Little Shop of Horrors.
Based on a low-budget horror-comedy film from 1960, Little Shop of Horrors debuted in 1982, and since then, it has become a hit amongst theater people. This show has had three runs in New York, and because of it's small cast, it has been a popular choice for theater groups of all kinds, both professional and amateur. I myself was lucky enough to have been involved in a local production of the show, and from that experience, found myself good with puppetry, and have grown a small audience. So you can tell I hold a special place in my heart for this musical. :D I actually wanted to talk about something related to this show, and that is the 1986 film adaptation directed by Frank Oz. This movie was how most people became familiar with the name, and with it being in a lot of people's favorite movie musicals lists, does it deserve the attention it's been getting, or should we just feed to a singing man-eating plant? Let's take a look. The Story The story of the movie naturally follows the plot of the musical. In a rundown Skid Row flower shop in New York, we see a nerdy florist named Seymour (played by Rick Moranis), his co-worker and crush Audrey (played by Ellen Greene reprising her role from the original Off-Broadway cast) who has an abusive boyfriend Orin Scrivello D.D.S. (played by Steve Martin), and their boss Mr. Mushnik (played by the late Vincent Gardenia). The shop is unfortunately on the brink of closing down, that is until Seymour brings in a strange and unusual plant resembling a flytrap that he calls Audrey II (or Twoey for short), which he buys shortly after a sudden eclipse of the sun. After Twoey immediately draws some attention and business for the shop, Seymour pricks his finger and discovers Audrey II needs blood to thrive. At first, Seymour's able to feed the plant wth blood drops from his fingers, but when the plant gets big enough and starts to talk and sing (with the voice of the late Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops), the plant wants more than just blood. It wants people. Audrey II promises fame and fortune, and even Audrey's love to Seymour as long as the plant is fed. First, let me say, this movie has a perfect blend of horror, as well as comedy. The movie is certainly more funny than scary, especially with the characters' line deliveries, and even when a scary scene does happen, on occasion, even they can get a good laugh sometimes. The movie is also happens top be paced like how the musical is, with song numbers, some great writing from Ashman, and just as great direction from Oz. If there is one criticism about this movie, being a fan of the stage version, some songs either had to be cut down, or in some cases cut entirely, but then again, they probably did it so they don't bring the movie to a crawl. It's not a big criticism, but it is something I wanted to point out. Okay, I gotta talk about the elephant in the room. Without spoiling anything, the movie was going to end on a dark note, but when it was shown to test audiences, they hated it, so a whole new happy ending was shot to satisfy the public. I'll admit, I think it sucks that they had to reshoot the ending, thankfully, a director's cut was released with the darker ending intact, so I'm gonna leave it to you to decide how you like the movie to end. ^^ The Cinematography and Puppetry Considering we have a film adaptation of a stage show, naturally a lot of the movie happens to be shot like a stage show, and I mean that in the best way. What we end up with is some well thought up shots, and even some good shots of Skid Row, like when we see Mr. Mushnik leave the shop and we get a good shot of Skid Row with a matte painting sky. We also get some nice camera work, especially in the song numbers, as sometimes, the camera will move with whoever is singing, so it flows pretty darn well. :) If there is one shot that might be one of my favorites in the movie, it has to be this shot during the song “Dentist!” where see get to see the inside the mouth of one of Orin's patients.
Now is that a cool shot or what? :D Of course, I can't talk about Little Shop of Horrors without talking about the puppetry. The stage musical is already well-known for having some of the most impressive live onstage puppetry, and with this being a big budget movie, the puppetry is more sophisticated with a number of animatronic puppets made to represent Audrey II as the thing grows, starting from this…
What makes the puppetry for this movie so good, is the amount of work spent to make it move as lifelike as they can, especially when Audrey starts talking. There's extra movement in the plant's mouth that matches perfectly with it's words, and even without eyes, it comes across as very expressive. :D And all of this was done with no CGI at all, so when characters talk to it, it feels genuine. That's how good the visual effects are. There's a reason it was nominated at the Oscars for “Best Visual Effects.” :D The Characters Like I said before, the musical has a small cast of characters, but the movie does not limit itself to just the ones from that, and they got some very good actors to play them all. :) First is Seymour Krelborn. Rick Moranis had a way to play some nervous, sometimes even geeky characters, and Seymour is no exception. He's a nerd, he's poor, and he lives in a flower shop where he's treated like crap. Despite this, Seymour is a likable character, and you'd want to see him get out of Skid Row, despite he can be easily influenced by his plant. Next is Audrey. Like I said, Ellen Greene reprises her role from the musical, and she does a good job here as she did onstage. Audrey is a pretty, sweet, shy girl who is in just a bad situation as Seymour, if not even worse, because she's in a toxic relationship. She's another character you want to see get out of her position, and I also like her connection with Seymour. My only real complaint about her is that in the movie, Greene speaks with a lisp, and while she did use it onstage, here, I think it's more pronounced, so sometimes, you might not understand what she's saying. Next is Mr. Mushnik, the cranky owner of the flower shop. While he does feel like a typical angry boss at the beginning of the movie, you do get the idea he does care for his employees. Gardenia plays the role very well, and he makes every chance he gets to be on screen worth it. ^^ Next is Orin Scrivello, D.D.S., the sadistic dentist. What makes this character interesting is that it's mentioned he beats up Audrey, and he's a professional. When we see he's a dentist, you see he loves his job hurting his patients, and he gets a kick out of it. What's even funnier is apparently his mother says he can make a living off of it. Yeah, the unlikability of him ironically makes him funny. XD Next, is a trio of urchins named Crystal, Ronette, and Chiffon (played by Tichina Arnold, Michelle Weeks, and Tisha Campbell). These three act as like the narrators of the movie, as well as the chorus and on occasion, they interact with the main characters. These ladies add a good amount of flair to the show and they're also pretty sassy, and there is a good amount of mystery to them, as every time they sing a song, they're weraing a different outfit. They're even wearing street outfits when they're just speaking but when they sing, they're wearing these glamorous dresses, so makes you wonder, what are these women, and how do they know what happens in the story? This movie has a good amount of cameos. I can at least talk about my favorites. We have a radio show host named Wink Wilkinson (played by John Candy). This guy is so funny since he has a bunch of weird gadgets used to make noises and while he's not in it for long, you can tell he's enjoying what he's doing. XD My other favorite cameo is Arthur Denton (played by Bill Murray), a masochist who likes going to the dentist. This character is an homage to the 1960 film which has a similar character played by a young Jack Nicholson. What makes this cameo the best is it's made clear how Orin loves causing pain, but then you have this guy thrown as a total curveball, and on top of that, Murray ad-libbed his entire scene. How funny is that a masochist can make a sadistic over-the-top dentist look like the straight man? XD Of course, I saved the stand-out character for last, Audrey II. When you first see it, it starts off small, and even before it speaks, it does have a ton of personality, but when it finally does start talking and singing, this plant is quite a hoot. The thing knows how to get what it wants by sweet-talking Seymour using it's charisma, and as it gets bigger, it's appetite gows, along with it's attitude. Even though Twoey is the bad guy, you can't help but love it every time it speaks and sings. Speaking of which… The Songs As I said before, Little Shop of Horrors is a rock musical. As such, we have songs done in the style of doo-wop, R&B, early Motown, and of course, early 60's rock-and-roll. Like I said, some of the songs from the musical are cut so I'm gonna talk about the ones in the movie, as well as the soundtrack. First is the title song, “Prologue/Little Shop of Horrors.” This plays during the opening credits and gets you familiar with the three urchins. It's an especially catchy song as they sing the chorus. Next is “Downtown (Skid Row)”, which gets you familiar with the Skid Row setting of the film. The urchins show almost everyone in this place are broke, and you get the sense that the people dislike the way they live, but they're so used to it, even their footsteps, including Audrey's, are synced to the music, except for Seymour, so you get the sense even he doesn't fit in at Skid Row. Next is “Da-Doo,” which has Seymour speaking and the urchins providing back-up, as the former explains where he found Audrey II. Honestly, this didn't need to be a song number, but the way Seymour explains, as well as the urchins singing kinda make it fun and a little easier to remember. ^^ Next is “Grow for Me,” which is a solo song sung by Seymour, and the scene where he finds out Twoey feeds on blood. This is a softer-sounding song as Seymour pleads the wilting plant to grow as apparently he's having a hard time trying to nurture it. Moranis has a good singing voice, and you can tell in this one, Seymour is trying his best to keep Audrey II thriving, but doesn't really know how to. Next is “Somewhere That's Green,” Audrey's solo song. Here, it's revealed to the audience what Audrey wants if she were to get out of Skid Row. It's a prettier-sounding song, sounding more serene as we get a bright, colorful vision of the life she wants, and Ellen Greene's singing voice is definitely easy on the ears. ^^ Next is “Some Fun Now,” sung by the urchins, right after the last song. This one is a reworked version of a song from the musical called “Ya Never Know,” and they serve a similar purpose as the urchins sing about Seymour's current position since the shop's newfound popularity. In this case, as Seymour feeds the plant, losing blood means he's losing a bit of energy. It's a catchy song, but you can't help but bee concerned for Seymour. Next is “Dentist!” sung by Orin. As soon as we first see him, he gets us familiar with him as he's doing his job. This song is catchy as it is funny, with Steve Martin doing a funny Elvis-style way of singing. ^^ Next, we come to my favorite song, “Feed Me (Git it!)” where Audrey II reveals it speaks. This song is a villain song disguised a hero song as the plant tells Seymour he can get what he wants as long as he feeds it. Seymour is reluntant, but as soon as he sees something happen (I won't spoil), he decides to go through with what the plant wants. It's a catchy song for sure, especially with the beat and the way the plant sings. :D Next is “Suddenly Seymour,” a duet between the two leads, as Seymour comforts Audrey, telling her he'll be there for her. It's quite a song as Greene does start singing with a bigger voice and becoming more confident. This song is a favorite amongst fans of the musical as well, and it deserves it for sure. ^^ Next is “Suppertime,” sung by Audrey II. Mr. Mushnik starts to catch on what Seymour might be onto something, and Twoey basically tells Seymour “Hey, he's onto us, we gotta get rid of him!” This is the song where the plant's true nature begins to show, as it sounds creepier, and the chorus provided by the urchins only adds to it. Next is a song that is cut down quite a bit, “The Meek Shall Inherit,” in which the urchins sing about Seymour getting more attention than ever. This song doesn't last too long in the movie, but on the soundtrack is an extended version where Seymour is considering what he should do. It's a more intense sounding, but I am okay the song is short for the movie. Next is a reprise of “Suppertime,” where after Seymour leaves Twoey alone, it tries to get another person to eat on. I won't say who it is, but it's just as creepy as it was the first time. Next is a new song written for the movie, “Mean Green Mother From Outer Space,” in which Seymour has his confrontation with the plant, and the whole time, it's singing a big song as it grows little Audrey II buds on its vines. This song is so catchy the way Twoey sings it, and the little chorus only makes it more enjoyable. No wonder this song got nominated at the Oscars for “Best Original Song.” :D Last is a song only in the soundtrack and director's cut, “Finale (Don't Feed the Plants.)” This is the song that tells what happens in the darker ending, and ends with a catchy finale, telling the audience that no matter what Audrey II offers anyone, the plants cannot be fed. I love the way this song sounds and while in the director's cut, it goes for some time, the last part of the song ends pretty darn cool. Like I said, it's only in the director's cut, so I'm gonna leave it up to you. ^^ Conclusion Frank Oz really outdone himself with this movie. While yes, he had to cut some corners to get this movie out, but he did was all worth it. If you get the chance to check this movie out, I recommend getting it on Blu-Ray. The copy has both the theatrical version as well as the director's cut, so you have the choice. Thanks for having me to do this review, Media Man. I'm glad I got to talk about this one. ^^
Media Man: You're welcome buddy. For those who want to follow Jacob, you can find him on DeviantArt, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.
Come back again this Friday for 10 more facts about Disney!