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Little Shop Of Horrors

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Little Shop Of Horrors

Starring: Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene
Director: Frank Oz
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 94 Minutes
Release Date: December 1986
Genres: Music, Comedy, Horror

*Also starring: Vincent Gardenia, Steve Martin, John Candy, Bill Murray, James Belushi, Christopher Guest

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Dragan Antulov review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
2.  Brian Koller read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review

Review by Dragan Antulov
3 stars out of 4

One of the saddest facts of modern Hollywood is almost total absence of musicals. Two years ago, it looked like the genre might be revived with Parker's EVITA and Woody Allen's EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU. But now almost everyone can agree that the musicals are nothing but history, at least as long as Hollywood producers are concerned. The ending chapter in that bright and shining history were 1980s, with the advent of MTV and video-clip revolution. With the audience already accustomed to the three-minute videos, musicals became obsolete and too expensive form of mixing music with motion pictures. Despite that, even in such bleak times, couple of musicals shone, becoming the swan song of the genre. One of them, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS by Frank Oz, remains one of the most memorable viewing experiences of the previous decade.

The interesting thing about that movie is its background. The screenplay by Howard Ashman was based on his own stage play, itself based on a movie called LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, 1960 horror comedy by Roger Corman. The musical loosely follows the original plot, set in the seedy part of town called Skid Row. Local flower shop is run by Mr. Mushnik (Vincent Gardenia), who, seeing no financial perspective, wants to lay off two of his workers. One of them is nerdy orphan Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis), who dreams about his colleague, lovely shop clerk Audrey (Ellen Greene). However, he hasn't got enough courage to express his love, especially because Ellen goes out with sadistic dentist Orrin Scrivello (Steve Martin). He finds consolation in his hobby- exotic plants. One of them, named 'Audrey II', suddenly begins drawing hordes of customers to Mushnik's shop. Mushnik is happy, but not for long, because the plant begins to die. Seymour soon finds out that the only thing that can feed the plant is human blood. At first, it doesn't seem to be the problem, but as the plant grows, so do Seymour's moral dilemmas about possible plant food.

Corman's work had already earned the cult status itself and Ashman had a difficult task to match its weird quality. However, thanks to the efforts of composers Miles Goodman and Alan Menken, the play very successfully used the opportunity to turn horror comedy into musical, following the contemporary trend of 1960s nostalgia. Cinematic adaptation was given to Frank Oz, talented and experienced entertainer, who had made a reputation working on THE MUPPET SHOW. The result was splendid combination of Old Hollywood artistry with the modern 1980s sentiments.

Apart from nostalgic costumes and settings, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is most recognisable by its music. Songs are original, yet very in tune with the popular trends of 1960s. Very ingenious element is the "Supremes"-like trio of three young singers, who serve as some kind of Greek chorus. Apart from that, musical numbers don't interrupt the normal plot like in most other musicals - they actually enhance it. The best example is a scene when Seymour must make a tough decision, and the song lyrics illustrates his choice.

The actors in this movie performed beautifully. Rick Moranis, short Canadian almost always typecast as nerdish sidekick, here brilliantly uses the opportunity to play main hero of the movie. His Seymour is a deeply flawed person born in poverty, and his desire for the plastic-wrapped middle class reality brings a lot of humour to his ironically tragic situation. His partner, Ellen Greene, was very experienced in playing the part of Audrey on stage, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that the cinematic version remains the best and most convincing role of her career - especially her singing of _Suddenly Seymour_ when she rejects her helium-voice, together with dumb blonde stereotypes. However, even some supporting actors have their share of glory, even in short appearances - Steve Martin as sadistic dentist, late John Candy as weird radio host, and, finally, Bill Murray as masochistic dental patient. His scene with Martin is so funny and so intense, that it should be worthy of a movie itself.

Stellar performances and catchy tunes overshadowed Frank Oz and his directorial skills. The best achievement of the movie was the creature - cannibalistic plant designed by Lyle Conway; Frank Oz gave the plant a mouth and that was enough for it to have a human traits. With the help of 40 operators and suggestive voice by Levy Stubbs, 'Audrey II' should have earned its place in the Hall of Fame for Science Fiction monsters. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be because the finale of the movie - Seymour's battle with 'Audrey II' - happened to be a little bit disappointing. Despite that, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS still remains one of the most entertaining movies of the previous decade, even for those who aren't crazy about weird musicals.

Copyright 1998 Dragan Antulov

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