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  Little Shop of Horrors Heavy Plant Crossing
Year: 1986
Director: Frank Oz
Stars: Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Vincent Gardenia, Steve Martin, Tichina Arnold, Michelle Weeks, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Levi Stubbs, James Belushi, John Candy, Christopher Guest, Bill Murray, Stan Jones, Miriam Margolyes, Vincent Wong
Genre: Horror, Musical, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Meek and downtrodden Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis) has a job in a destitute florist's in Skid Row, the poorest part of town. He manages to collapse a shelf in the basement then trip and smash a collection of flower pots, all in a day's work for him. His boss is Mr Mushnik (Vincent Gardenia) who impatiently puts up with him and his co-worker Audrey (Ellen Greene), but it's Audrey who Seymour is interested in. Alas, although she thinks he's sweet, she already has a boyfriend, and he's the one responsible for the black eye she is currently sporting. Seymour wishes she would leave him, but doesn't know how to approach her, yet there is soon to be something in their lives that will bring them together, something that starts out small and grows much larger: a new kind of plant...

Roger Corman and his scriptwriter Charles B. Griffith conjured up the original 1960 version in record time, but this remake took much longer to create. Actually, it wasn't strictly a remake but an adaptation of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's stage musical that was based on the first film, and the songs were retained for this version, along with a much bigger budget and superb puppetry to bring the villainous plant to life. Couple those elements to some excellent casting (Greene was the only member of the stage musical to appear in the film) and on paper it looks like a winner, so why does it leave one admiring but underwhelmed?

Perhaps it's because everything appears so calculated, from the set design that displays a wonderful attention to detail to the performances that trade in a studied camp that never breathes life into the concept. Seymour finds the carnivorous plant in another, higher class gardening shop during an eclipse, so we're supposed to believe that it's a space invader, another example of overreaching in the production. He takes it back to Mushnik's and, what do you know? After he nicks his finger on a rose thorn he discovers the plant, named Audrey II, shortened to "Twoie", lives on blood as well as the other vegetation staples. From their it's a short step to feeding Audrey II body parts, but Seymour is really the victim, as he is forced into providing dinner for the man-eater.

And he essentially only does it the once, with Audrey's boyfriend, the sadistic dentist played by Steve Martin, a biker who takes great pleasure in inflicting pain, not only on his girlfriend but on his patients as well - unless they're masochists like Bill Murray's character. This brings out a problem with the film's comedy, as it simply isn't funny, and there's no zip to its lines despite a willing cast doing their best. Also, too much of the running time is taken up with Seymour and Audrey's budding (ha!) romance, which drags the tone down into schmaltz. On the other hand, the plant is a marvellous creation, speaking and singing with Levi Stubbs' voice, and growing bigger and more menacing with every scene until it fills the whole shop - it was supposed to take over the city as well, but that sequence, which would have ended the film on a high, was cut. The songs, mainly a pastiche of early sixties pop, are fine, with ingenious lyrics, but nothing you really leave humming, so this Little Shop of Horrors isn't as enjoyable as its source.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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