Little Shop of Horrors

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Our rating: three lava lamps.

Information about this film in the Internet Movie Database.

Little Shop of Horrors
Audrey II cuddles up to Seymour.
The best way to see Little Shop of Horrors is the way we did as part of the Summer Film Series. Watch the original 1960 Little Shop up through Jack Nicholson's appearance as the masochistic dental patient, and then switch to the 1986 musical remake at the start of Steve Martin's big song as the sadistic dentist. It cuts the whole experience down to about ninety minutes, and avoids the more unpleasant parts of each movie.

Having seen both films in their entirety, however, we feel fairly qualified to review the 1986 musical, which is really the better of the two. The original film is difficult to watch for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that the actor who plays Seymour is even more annoying than Rick Moranis, if you can believe that. The musical, on the other hand, has far too many songs towards the beginning that don't really advance the plot, so skipping ahead to the dentist song is really preferable.

The shop in the title is Mushnik's flower shop, where the sometimes-tyrannical Mr. Mushnik struggles to get ahead peddling his flowers to the neighborhood. In his employ are Audrey (Ellen Greene) and Seymour Krelborn (Moranis). In an attempt to impress Audrey and keep his job, Seymour adopts a strange plant from the market. The plant, which he dubs "Audrey II," begins to wither and die until Seymour figures out what it eats: human blood. Business starts booming as people flock to the shop to see the amazing plant, unaware of its gruesome diet.

Little Shop of Horrors
"Son, be a dentist..."
Audrey, meanwhile, likes Seymour quite well, but she's afraid to leave her current boyfriend, Orin Scrivello, D.D.S., who abuses her. Steve Martin nearly steals the show as the sadistic dentist, especially during his big song, "You'll Be a Dentist." Audrey II, who eventually lets Seymour in on the secret of its ability to speak, convinces Seymour that Scrivello deserves to die -- eaten by a plant, of course. Audrey II becomes more and more demanding in its quest for more food, and Seymour must choose between the fame and love his association with the plant brings him and the ability to look himself in the mirror every morning.

Little Shop is quite the departure for director Frank Oz, who previously had only been associated with Muppets projects and his work as Yoda in the Star Wars films. Here, Oz shows his ability not only to direct actors made of flesh instead of foam, but also to direct a musical. The result is remarkably charming. While Audrey II is the centerpiece of the film, the scenes without the giant puppet are equally entertaining. The off-center humor of the movie continues apace without the giant props, and Oz has populated the film with main actors and cameo celebrities who can carry it off. Bill Murray puts Nicholson to shame when he revisits the role of the masochistic dental patient in one of Little Shop's best scenes.

The music, too, deserves special mention. The late Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken (both of Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast fame) have provided the filmmakers with an amazing set of songs to move the action along.

Little Shop of Horrors
Greene & Moranis sing their
widdle hearts out.
Although the decision to change the ending to a happy one made the final scenes of the film less amusing than its stage counterpart, this rendition of Little Shop is entertaining enough to gain a cult following and the occasional re-release midnight showing at some movie theaters. Best of all, though, it's remarkably easy to have fun with. We'll leave you with our favorite comment of the evening we watched it.

"Audrey sounds an awful lot like Elmer Fudd. Hey, how do you figure he'd sing that song?"

Suddenwy Semouwh
Is standing beside you.
You don't need no make-up,
Don't have to pwetend.
Suddenwy Semouwh
Is hewh to pwovide you
Sweet unduhstanding.
Seymouwh's youwh fwiend.

Okay, maybe you had to be there. But just wait until you hear Sylvester the Cat sing "Some Place That's Green"!

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Review date: 7/10/98

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