30 Movies in 30 Days: Little Shop of Horrors

Had I seen it before: No, nor had I seen the 1960 movie on which the musical is based.

Year: 1986

Director: Frank Oz

Writers: Okay, these writing credits take some extra explaining. Howard Ashman is the main writer here, and he also wrote the stage musical on which this movie is based. However, that stage musical is based on a non-musical film from 1960 by Roger Corman that had a screenplay written by Charles B. Griffith. Got it? Good.

Where you can stream it now: HBO Max/HBO Now/Whatever other versions of the HBO app have come out this week.

What IMDb says: A nerdy florist finds his chance for success and romance with the help of a giant man-eating plant who demands to be fed.

Why I picked it: It is a childhood favorite of the lovely Jess, who regular readers have seen featured in other posts.

What I liked: I love how Frank Oz let this still feel more like theater than a movie. It’s overacted across the board. The sets look pretty cheap. Theatrical such as the Motown trio that function as a Greek chorus are placed front and center, when I could see a more modern production trying to downplay this in favor of realism. But none of those things feel like weaknesses or mistakes because the movie refuses to apologize for any of them. It spits in the face of realism. That level of commitment is a prerequisite for making a movie like this work, and if there’s one thing Little Shop of Horrors has in droves, it’s commitment.

And while everyone is good, Steve Martin deserves his own paragraph. A sadistic, evil dentist is already a brilliant idea for a villain, and Steve Martin has so much fun in this role that you can’t help but have fun watching him. Whether he’s singing or not, he’s so over-the-top and steals every scene he’s in. (Okay, it wasn’t exactly a LONG paragraph, but you see my point. Steve Martin is a national treasure.)

The best part of this is perhaps the way that I don’t want to talk about any of the other things that would easy to criticize. Critic Anne knows that Audrey has no real personality and Seymour probably only likes her because she has great boobs. Critic Anne knows it’s completely ridiculous for a baby carnivorous plant to instantly drive business into a flower shop. But Actual Anne doesn’t care. She was having too much fun. Little Shop of Horrors had a way of stealing my heart so thoroughly that my brain was able to just take a break and relax. And again, because it feels like theater rather than film, it seems unfair to apply the rules of film criticism to it.

What I didn’t like: Act 3 dragged a bit for me. There were a lot of moments where I was like “okay, we’re here, the climax, Seymour is gonna put Audrey II in her place” and then the film just…. keeps going. This is somewhat surprising given the short 93-runtime, but also a fairly common thing I run into with more subversive so-called “cult films.” (Honestly not sure if Little Shop of Horrors is considered a cult film, but it certainly feels like one.) I’ll also admit I was fairly hungry while watching it due to my own questionable life choices, so there’s a chance it’s not the movie’s fault.

Will I watch it again: Most likely. It’s a fun movie, and one I can see myself introducing to other friends.

Who would enjoy it?: People who love over the top, campy things, and especially people who love musicals.

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