Little Shop of Horrors Reviews
Based on the Roger Corman film of the same name (released in 1960) and the punchy play that the latter directly inspired, "Little Shop of Horrors," directed by Muppets mainstay Frank Oz and written by Howard Ashman, makes the transition from stage to screen with witty swank that makes a great case for more similarly minded adaptations.
It stars the sweetly geeky Rick Moranis as Seymour Krelborn, a lonely-heart florist who spends his days in a flower shop on Skid Row, dreaming of domesticity and somebody to love. Bossed around daily by Mr. Mushnik (Vincent Gardenia), the owner of the outlet and his quasi-father figure, Seymour is miserable. The only thing keeping him from calling it quits is Audrey (Ellen Greene), a co-worker with whom he's infatuated. Kind, shy, and endearingly innocent, she could be his perfect match. If only she weren't going out with Orin Scrivello (a scene-stealing Steve Martin), a sadomasochistic dentist - then there'd be nothing standing in the way of their seemingly mutual affection.
To distract himself from his ever-present adoration, Seymour throws himself into his work, a necessary decision, anyway, because Mushnik is a penny pincher who craves more business but is too cheap to find a fiscal solution. In hopes to please his boss, and give himself something to do, Seymour purchases a mysterious plant from an exotic vendor down the street, which looks like a cross between a Venus Fly Trap and the eponymous antagonist of 1979's "Alien."
The bud, billed "Audrey II" by Seymour, soon grows and comes to be a tourist attraction - Mushnik's shop turns into a hotbed of otherworldly wonders. At first, it's all fun and games, a walk in the park on a cool summer's day. But as Audrey II (humorously voiced by r&b singer Levi Stubbs) continues to thrive, inching higher and higher each day, it becomes clear that this plant isn't as ethereally ordinary as it might have at first appeared to be. And when its appetite transforms from predictable to insatiably bloodthirsty, Seymour may have more than just a diverting personal project on his hands.
With its balance of breezy comedy, painless likability, cynical social commentary, and accomplished musicality, "Little Shop of Horrors" is a movie musical with welcome bite. It embraces its oddities without doting over them (the trio of Motown-esque narrators, embodied by Tisha Campbell-Martin, Tichina Arnold, and Michelle Weeks is an unforgettable asset), and handles its more satirical elements with such incredulous subtlety that it might even be easy to miss how well it touches upon the insanities of consumerism. It's as light and escapist as you want it to be, entertaining for the casual viewer, bitingly parodical for analytics, and tunefully strong for a typical musical lover.
There are two endings, both of which drastically alter the overall effect "Little Shop of Horrors" has on its audience. One is optimistic, allowing for Seymour to be an unlikely hero, and the other is sardonic and fashions Seymour into a victim, Audrey II the unpredicted victor. Studio execs preferred the happier of the two in 1986 and had that one theatrically released, but devoted fans of the project are more drawn toward the misanthropic gut-punch Oz, and the play, envisioned.
But as a closet romantic who likes it when lovable characters discover that life isn't so bad after all, I'm more partial to the sentimental conclusion, though I suppose I'm in a sappier mood now that summer is upon us. But regardless of its various endings, "Little Shop of Horrors" is a delectation no matter what path it takes. Like Audrey II, it's as if it were from another world, being an impressively rich malt of tones.
Frank Oz's Director's Cut is definitely the superior effort though with its more powerful ending and laudable special effects work for the time. The men and women behind that work deserve a damn retroactive Oscar ASAP!