Monday, October 17, 2016


A few years ago I reviewed the cheap and quickly made Roger Corman B Movie of "Little Shop Of Horrors", that eventually became a cult classic, which was then later adapted as a musical that became a surprise success. Now I'm going to review the 1986 film that's based on the musical that people remember more than the original.

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A nerdy orphan named Seymour (Rick Moranis) who works at a failing flower shop in the slums of 1960 New York City, that's headed by Mr. Mushnik (Vincent Gardenia); finds a way to save the shop from closing, after finding a strange plant by using it to attract customers. His attempt to get customers to come in and buy flowers from the shop becomes an instant success, but unfortunately the plant starts to slowly die. As Seymour tries to take care of the plant, he accidentally pricks his finger on a throne of a rose which causes him to bleed, only to discover that the plant lives off of human blood. As time goes by, Seymour and the flower shop become famous thanks to the publicity surrounding the plant, as it grows and grows every time Seymour feeds it his blood. Eventually the plant begins to talk (Voiced by Levi Stubbs of "The Four Tops") and persuades Seymour to feed him people. Seymour is at first reluctant to the plant's offer, but after seeing his love interest and work colleague Audrey (Ellen Greene) getting constantly abused by her sadistic dentist boyfriend (Steve Martin), he agrees to feed him to the plant in order to save the business and hopefully gain her love with him out of the way.

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The casting for this film is spot on! There is not a single casting choice in this movie who I didn't feel like that they failed to emerge into their character. Rick Moranis as the helpless and socially awkward Seymour is a perfect fit for the character. Even though I'm well aware that this is the same actor who usually gets type-casted for playing comical nerdy losers, I still completely buy that this is a man who's down on his luck and wants to leave the slums of New York and merry the girl he loves. I always feel every inch of guilt and stress that he suffers after feeding people to this plant. There's never a moment where I find myself saying "oh it’s just Rick Moranis being his usual Rick Moranis self", NO I see him strictly as the character. I think the main reason why I find myself separating the actor and the character is for how innocent he plays the role, and how he doesn't act as over the top as he does in most of his films (especially in later films like "Spaceballs" and the "Honey I Shrunk The Kids" franchise). He mostly plays out the humor subtly and emotionally, where you laugh at him, but also sympathize with the character at the same time, which is what makes his performance so fantastic.

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Another performance in the film that beautifully convenes the humor and the emotions of the character just as well Moranis’ performance is Ellen Greene as Seymour's love interest Audrey. Considering that Greene was the first actress to portray Audrey in the original off-Broadway cast of the musical, it shouldn't be all that surprising that she would play the role on film just as naturally as she performed it on stage. And I have to say that in terms of updating the original Audrey character from the Roger Corman film by having her resemble the actress Judy Holliday who is known for playing the "dumb blonde", is more memorable and funny compared to Jackie Joseph's character and performance in the original. Not to say it was bad, but it wasn't anything memorable since her character was just the typical perfect love interest, nothing more. Audrey in this film is not only a very beautiful woman, but she's also a poor and defenseless shy character who follows men blindly no matter how much abuse she takes, which is pretty sad, and overall makes you root for Seymour to try to win her over knowing that he's the right man for her, despite that he reluctantly gets manipulated into carrying out dark deeds. Compared to Seymour, Audrey comes off as a little more over the top, mainly for how she looks and how she always speaks in that high pitched voice. But her innocence and relationship that she has with Seymour are what keeps her as grounded as Moranis’ character. And the chemistry that these two actors share between each other doesn't feel corny or phoned in. You feel for their relationship every step of the way in hopes that they will get together in the end.

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With our two leads being comical but innocent, the rest of the cast of characters are all cartoony and over the top, as none of them cross the line of going too far with their excessive personalities. Vincent Gardenia is a perfect fit for the character of Mr. Mushnick, as he's always yelling in frustration in a very comedic fashion. Christopher Guest as the first and happy customer to see the plant does a funny job of delivering the mannerisms of this over excited customer with his huge grin that never frowns, and upbeat delivery that doesn't at all seem natural. Bill Murray brings a lot of comedic energy and ad-libbed dialogue as a crazy patient who loves being in pain. James Belushi is enjoyably eccentric as the licensing and marketing executive who wants to make money off of Seymour's plant. And even John Candy gets in on the fun as a Radio Disc Jockey who hosts a show dedicated to "weeeeird" stuff. Out of all the characters in the cast of supporting characters, the most enjoyable and memorable one of them all is Steve Martin as the dentist. He only gets like three or four scenes in the entire movie, and every time he shows up on screen, he completely takes away the spotlight from both Seymour and Audrey, with his crazy and sadistic Elvis like personality as he keeps sucking on gas that makes him laugh like a hyena. I'll admit, as funny and unforgettable as the supporting characters in this film are, with the exception of Steve Martin as the dentist, I find the supporting characters in the original film funnier. I still laugh at Dick Miller playing a cool customer who loves to eat flowers. I find Jack Nicholson as the patient that loves being in pain, crazier than Murray's performance. And I think Mel Welles is a funnier Mr.Mushnick than Vincent Gardenia is since he's given more to do compared to what Gardenia is given (he doesn't even get a song). I'm not saying by any stretch of the imagination that the performances from the supporting cast in this movie are bad or not funny. But if I had to point out one thing that the original did better it would be its large cast of supporting characters.

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The best character and performance in the whole entire film that outshines all of the characters for whenever he appears on screen is Levi Stubbs as the plant. This character has it all. The innocence (and by that I mean when we first see him as a dying little plant), the humor, the energy, the intimidation, the scares, the voice, and the various designs for each form that it takes are all what make him such a larger than life scene chewing villain, both literally and figuratively. I won't go into too much detail about the character since I already gave great depth of why the villain's so awesome when I tied him and the dentist as my "17th Favorite Movie Villain". But I will say that living in this day and age where most special effects are overly done with CGI, I'm glad that this film came out in the 80s, because the puppetry and animatronics used for the plant still looks life like to this very day. Its great use of effects like these that proves you don't always need CGI to create something big and convincing as a giant talking plant. And while we're on the topic of effects, I still think the stylized sets, and use of green-screen and optical effects are just as incredible to look at as the plant is. I also admire the creative camerawork that director Frank OZ (who's known for voicing Yoda, and dozens of Muppet characters) uses to make this film adaptation to a musical look visually distinctive.

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The songs in the movie are all wonderful! There's not a single song that I found to be boring, forgettable, or even pointless. Each and every one of them are full of nothing but pure entertaining joy that move the story forward, and will have you at least humming one of the songs when the film is over. The character that sings the most in movie isn’t Seymour, or Audrey, or even the Plant for that matter. It's actually a trio of girls (Tichina Arnold, Michelle Weeks, and Tisha Campbell) who serve as the film's Greek chorus, that pop out of nowhere wearing flashy costumes and are mostly not seen by the characters, as they sing with their Motown style voices that are in great harmony. And while they mostly provide the back-up vocals, they do get two solo songs of their own, which are the opening song that’s named after the film's title, and "Some Fun Now" that are both sung and performed just as flawlessly, as they do the back-up vocals.

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As I've said before, the casting of actors for their characters are all perfect for their roles. And it's not just because they do a solid job of playing them, but it’s also because they can sing! Unlike how most movie musicals these days where Hollywood casts famous actors who are clearly not singers, this film on the other hand does. Rick Moranis goes from talk-singing the song "Da-Doo" with the Greek chorus, to singing "Grow For Me" with a lot of heart and emotion. While Ellen Greene sings her want song "Somewhere That's Green" with such a lovely voice, as we watch a dream-like sequence of her happily living in a perfect home that resemble illustrations from an early 60s magazine. But the best scenes that involve Moranis' and Greene's singing are whenever they are singing together, whether it’s on the dirty streets of "Skid Row" full of singing bums and people living in poverty, or getting together as they sing "Suddenly Seymour". Steve Martin gets one song in the film which is also his first scene in the movie that's called "Dentist", and everything you want to know about this guy's life and personality is all perfectly summed up in that one song, as Martin Elvis' it up as he sings and tortures frightened patients. Out all the songs in the movie, the best ones come from the Plant who gets three songs to sing which are "Feed Me (Git It)", "Suppertime" (Including its reprise that he sings to Audrey), and the Oscar nominated song "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space". Every time I hear Levi Stubb's singing voice as I am being treated to such dazzling effects, my eyes and hears are completely attached to this monstrous beast that has me laughing, while also sending chills down my spine for how big and menacing this creature is. If I had to pick the least good song in the movie, I would say that "The Meek Shall Inherit" sung by the Greek girls and company is easily the most forgettable one in the movie for how short it is. And the sad part about the song is, when it was originally filmed and edited it was supposed to be longer, where we enter a dream-sequence with plenty of cool and unique visuals that tackles into Seymour's fears of keeping the plant. And what makes this sequence of not being in the movie even sadder is it’s not even released as a deleted scene in the latest release of the film on both DVD and Blu-Ray.

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What you can however see on recent releases of the film is the original ending where the Plant eats Audrey and Seymour and takes over the world, that's been restored with color and new sound-effects when with the original prints of the ending that were released were in Black-And-White, and hardly had any sound. And I have to admit, they did an excellent job of restoring it for the current releases. You don't get the sense that it’s been colorized, the sound effects sound awesome, the change of vocals for the choir singing "Don't Feed The Plants" are excellent, and the way the original ending is edited into the film feels natural. It's awesome to finally see Frank OZ finally release the ending that he already filmed, and to see these spectacular effects of the plants destroying the city being restored on to a "Directors Cut" of the movie, instead of being in the Deleted Scenes category. And the best part of including the original cut ending on to the film's most recent release is they give you the option to watch both cuts on the Blu-Ray, instead of just seeing the "Director's Cut", which is great because I love both cuts of the film, and I'd be pissed off if OZ didn't include the ending that he had to reluctantly go with.

In many respects, making a B movie into a musical should have never worked, it just seemed as stupid as making "Carrie" into a musical. But with the proper writing, and hiring legendary song writers like Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, it became a smash hit. And this movie adaptation of the musical does the same amount of justice, just on a cinematic scale. The updates are clever, the casting is perfect, the songs are unforgettable, the effects are jaw dropping, and the level of humor and entertainment that the film brings never seizes to stop being enjoyable. Whether you prefer the Theatrical Cut, the Director's Cut, or both, you will still find yourself having a fun time watching this fun musical being brought to film.


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