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The Little Shop of Horrors
1986 - PG-13 - Mins.
Director: Frank Oz
Starring: Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Steve Martin, James Belushi, John Candy, Christopher Guest, Bill Murray
Review by: John Ulmer
   
There's never been a movie like "The Little Shop of Horrors" before, and there probably never will be. The film it resembles the most is undoubtedly "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," but I find it cleverer, funnier, and more enjoyable than that movie, if still as sick in its own twisted little way.

The movie stars Rick Moranis in the role he was born to play: that of a geeky and timid New York City kid named Seymour, who works at a crummy florist shop way downtown along with Audrey (Ellen Greene), a blonde gal who sounds as if she's sucked in too much helium. Seymour is too shy to confess his love for Audrey, and his only way of dropping a hint is when he finds a mysterious plant at another flower shop and names it Audrey II. "I hope you don't mind," he tells her, and then he drops it by the front window of the store in hopes of drawing customers.

It does. The first customer (Christopher Guest) enters with a cheerfully stupid grin and buys $50 worth of roses. "Do you have change for a hundred?" he asks. They don't. "Oh, well, then I guess I'll just have to buy one hundred dollars' worth!"

Business starts to boom, and the plant starts to bloom, turning into a ferocious man-eater that demands a sacrifice of human blood from Seymour to crave its hunger. After a few weeks, Seymour is bone dry, unable to slice any more fingers open and feed his gargantuan plant. "Feed me, Seymour!" the talking plant bellows.

Audrey has a new boyfriend who has been beating her up. He's a dentist, played by Steve Martin, and as he puts it, "I have a natural talent for causing people pain!" He likes to cause people intense pain, walking through his dentist's office and purposely knocking orderlies in the face with door handles and pulling teeth without applying sedatives. "Wait! I'm not numb!" a customer shouts during an introductory song. "Eh, shut up, open wide, here I come!" his dentist yells, starting to drill away.

Steve Martin has played a dentist since, in the undoubtedly lesser but unjustly bashed "Novocaine" (2001). His outing as a pain-driven dentist in "The Little Shop of Horrors" is ten times better, and Martin is truly the highlight of the entire film, from the point when he is introduced riding his motorcycle to the job with a leather jacket (only to strip it off and reveal a white dentist's coat as he enters his office), to the part where Seymour enters his office with a gun in hopes of killing him and feeding him to his plant. Martin doesn't get what's going on, because he's wearing a comedically oversized laughing gas mask he invented that's making him chuckle like a moron. "What are you gonna do? Shoot me? Ha!" The laughing gas kills him before Seymour musters up the emotional strength to.

Seymour drags the dentist's dead body home, chops him up and feeds him to Audrey II, but this is only the start of his worries, because soon the media frenzy centered around the wonderfully odd plant starts to drive him to insanity, as he desperately tries to juggle between keeping a clean conscience and keeping away the media.

Then Audrey II reveals its true intentions - to take over the world with its offspring - and Seymour decides that it's time to stop Audrey II before it gets too far.

"The Little Shop of Horrors" is such a wonderfully offbeat comedy it's almost impossible to dislike. It's one of my favorite comedies, the type of odd little film that doesn't promise to be very much at all but provides a lot.

Frank Oz directed the film (based on Roger Corman's classic), and it was filmed on a visibly low budget, but that's okay, because it's supposed to be that way. It's part of the fun. All the stages are obviously just that, with poorly painted backgrounds of New York City and the skyline. You can literally see the cracks in the wall where the different stages meet with each other. And it's great! It makes the movie, and the movie knows it isn't anything special. At one point, Audrey has a dream sequence of living in a nice little Brady Bunch home, and we see Seymour cutting the lawn with a lawnmower. It's so cheesy and fake that it barely meets the quality standards of a children's television show - but, once again, it helps makes the movie.

The movie has tons of cameos, too, including James Belushi, John Candy, Christopher Guest, Bill Murray, et al. And if the guest stars, dark humor, and delightful direction don't interest you, perhaps the songs will - because many of them are quite good. The highlight is "Suddenly Seymour," in which Seymour and Audrey have a duet, and Audrey's voice suddenly turns from meek to booming, overpowering Seymour's lyrics and pounding the stage.

This is the definition of a cult film. Everything about it just strikes you as a cult film. But whereas "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" is a cult film for - in my opinion - sick people, "The Little Shop of Horrors" is a cult film for people who love comedy. It's all in good nature, with cheery little musical numbers every once and a while that are as funny as the songs in "The Blues Brothers," if not more so. But what makes the film particularly different from the rest is its deliciously dark humor - especially for a mainstream comedy like this. From the plant's adamant bloodlust to the shadowy image of Steve Martin slapping Audrey around behind a backlit stage prop, this is one of the funniest, darkest, and yet also cheerfully lightweight comedies ever.
 
Movie Guru Rating
A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic.
  5 out of 5 stars

 
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