Tag Archives: Bill Murray

Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

While I would definitely consider myself a fan of musicals, Little Shop of Horrors was something completely different from the types of musicals that I am accustomed to. This, along with the fun, quirky Rick Moranis in the lead – as well as the several cameo appearances by other various comedians – provided me with a great new musical experience that I really enjoyed.

Rick Moranis as a man who buys and nurtures a killer plant seems natural after having seen him in other crazy roles such as Louis in Ghostbusters, as Wayne Szalinksi in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and as Barney Rubble in The Flintstones; his talent for appearing serious in a not-serious role is quite entertaining, as are the various kooky faces he makes in reaction to his surroundings. I was surprised at how well Moranis sung everything, but it certainly wasn’t “professional” quality. In fact, the lack of polish in the singing made the character even more enjoyable.

Steve Martin as the sadistic dentist character was actually pretty creepy – him singing “Dentist” was terrifying – but, like Moranis, Martin has a talent for playing insane characters without having the audience question it.

The most impressive part of the film, however, was the plant, Audrey II. I was amazed at how realistically the mouth moved along with the lyrics, all with puppetry. The voice of Audrey II, Levi Stubbs (the lead singer for The Four Tops), was also quite entertaining; his varying vocal range was hysterical, with him moving from speaking in a low octave to almost a screech in a higher octave. (I also think it would be appropriate to mention that the film was directed by Frank Oz, who is more famously known as the puppeteer who voiced both Yoda in the Star Wars films and Miss Piggy in The Muppets.)

I’ll admit that I didn’t care for the character of Audrey, played by Ellen Greene, mainly because of the way Greene played her, with that squeaky voice…though I’ll admit that it made me laugh a couple of times during “Suddenly, Seymour”.

Speaking of the music, it was fantastic, though I wouldn’t expect anything less from an Alan Menken/Howard Ashman collaboration. The style was fun and catchy, the lyrics were clever and often quite funny, and they were all performed very well by the cast. The use of the trio of women as a “gospel chorus” (as Wikipedia informs me it is called) is amusing as it seems to foreshadow Alan Menken’s future involvement with Disney’s Hercules, which features a similar trio of singing women.

Overall, Little Shop of Horrors is definitely something different than the typical musical production popular in America, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining. With Moranis in the lead, Martin supporting, and several cameos by the likes of Bill Murray, John Candy, Christopher Guest, and James Belushi, there are plenty of laughs to go around, and the infectious music by Menken and Ashman provide a unique experience for the audience as they watch chaos unfold onscreen.

-Chad

Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for mature thematic material including comic horror violence, substance abuse, language and sex references


Space Jam (1996)

I was only 4 years old when Space Jam was released in theaters, so I don’t remember seeing it for the first time, but I do remember times spent watching it on VHS as a child. Looking back on it now, the film still has the same fun and charm that it had upon its initial release 16 years ago (my goodness…has it really been that long?!), but I’ve come to realize that it’s far from what could be considered an “excellent” film.

First, the good: for the most part, Michael Jordan does a great job and is pretty likable. Though he’s certainly not an Oscar-worthy actor, he holds his own, doesn’t try too hard, and entertains us. Seeing him alongside Bugs Bunny and the other Looney Tunes characters is amusing because their cartoon-y rules now apply to him and to any other humans who make appearances in their world; throughout the film, we see humans getting sucked through holes like a drink through a straw, squashed flat against the ground, and stretched in ways that only cartoon characters can. The Monstars – the aliens who threaten to enslave the Looney Tunes – have some funny moments as well, such as when they are fooled by Bugs into thinking that there are rules that they have to follow before they can kidnap anyone. Perhaps my favorite moment in the film is when Bill Murray shows up at the game and the Monstars’ boss says, “I didn’t know Dan Aykroyd was in this picture!” (a Ghostbusters reference, for those of you who needed help) There are several laugh-worthy jokes, including jibes at Michael Jordan’s actual career (“I’m a baseball player now!” “Right…and I’m a Shakespearean actor.”), and the second half of the basketball game is the best part of the movie.

However, the plot is just awful. While “cartoon characters kidnap a former basketball star to aid in defeating aliens in a basketball game that decides their fate” may work for kids, it’s an incredibly ridiculous premise. While some may argue that it’s allowed to be ridiculous because it has cartoon characters and humans interacting with each other, I’d like to point out that Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Mary Poppins before it did the same thing in a hugely successful way without having terrible story lines. Another problem I had with the film was the inclusion of Wayne Knight (Jurassic Park), who plays Jordan’s bumbling publicist/assistant, serving no purpose other than to provide some physical comedy. If his character had been excluded from the film, it would have made it that much better.

Fortunately, Michael Jordan acts with an ease that overcomes much of the film’s downfalls, interacting well with these animated characters – an impressive feat for a non-actor, especially when you realize that, from the moment he enters Looney Tune Land, he is almost completely on his own…cartoon characters aren’t added in until after the scene is filmed. For me, it’s the combination of Jordan and the nostalgic memories watching this as a child that makes this film worth the watch – despite the things that aren’t so great. Space Jam might not appeal to adults, but kids will love it, and – who knows? – maybe even the kid in you will like it too.

-Chad

Rating: 3 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG – for some mild cartoon language