Tag Archives: hercules

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


Tangled (2010) – Alan Menken

Alan Menken’s score for 2010’s Tangled is like a modern update to the scores of the classic Disney films of the 1990s; who better to bring new life to the classic scores than the man who originally scored/wrote songs for The Little MermaidBeauty and the BeastAladdin, PocahontasHercules, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame?

The best part about this score is that the styles vary so completely from track to track. The first instrumental track we hear is titled “Flynn Wanted”, and it manages to effectively capture the swashbuckling, adventurous feel that Eugene Fitzherbert tries to emulate as the thieving Flynn Rider. Two tracks later, “Horse With No Rider” introduces an eerie, anxious theme that serves as a backdrop to Mother Gothel’s realization that Rapunzel may have been found and the subsequent panicked flee back to the tower. And still something different is “Campfire”, in which we hear some subtle hints at the main theme for the musical number “I See the Light”, a play at the budding relationship between our two protagonists. The ending to “The Tear Heals” is filled with the emotion appropriate to the situation; it’s grand, heartfelt, and, to use a bit of a cliche, magical.

Of course, the real highlights of Tangled‘s soundtrack are the musical numbers, which the score only serves as backup to. In “When Will My Life Begin” and its two reprises, we see the main conflict within Rapunzel: her desire to do something with her life other than stay in the tower forever. While I’m not a particular fan of “Mother Knows Best”, it is an appropriate introduction to Mother Gothel, and, even more, a setup for an excellent reprise. “I’ve Got a Dream” is a hilarious, raucous sing-along that shows us that “our differences ain’t really that extreme”. The real standout song of this album, though, is “I See the Light”, a beautiful duet between Rapunzel and Eugene that reminds me of Aladdin‘s “A Whole New World” every time I hear it…but in a good way.

Overall, while the score only features a couple of standout moments (“Kingdom Dance” is my favorite), the musical numbers are what you buy the album for. With fantastic performances by Mandy Moore and Zachery Levi, the score for Tangled is a return to the classic Disney singalong animated film; it’s fun, it’s touching, and it tells a wonderful story.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

  1. “When Will My Life Begin”   2:32
  2. “When Will My Life Begin (Reprise 1)”   1:03
  3. “Mother Knows Best”   3:10
  4. “When Will My Life Begin (Reprise 2)”   2:06
  5. “I’ve Got a Dream”   3:11
  6. “Mother Knows Best (Reprise)”   1:38
  7. “I See the Light”   3:44
  8. “Healing Incantation”   0:54
  9. “Flynn Wanted”   2:51
  10. “Prologue”   2:03
  11. “Horse With No Rider”   1:57
  12. “Escape Route”   1:57
  13. “Campfire”   3:22
  14. “Kingdom Dance”   2:20
  15. “Waiting for the Lights”   2:48
  16. “Return to Mother”   2:07
  17. “Realization and Escape”   5:51
  18. “The Tear Heals”   7:38
  19. “Kingdom Celebration”   1:51
  20. “Something That I Want”   (Grace Potter)   2:43

Total Length: app. 56 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

P.S. – Read my review of the film here!


Hercules (1997) – Alan Menken

Hercules holds a special place in my heart because it’s the first film that I remember viewing at the movie theater; I remember sitting next to my grandmother and cheering Hercules along from my seat in the audience. Looking at the soundtrack now brings back good memories.

Let’s look at the musical numbers first. The music is composed by renowned Disney composer Alan Menken (The Little MermaidBeauty and the BeastAladdin), with lyrics by David Zippel. The musical numbers are all over the place, with styles ranging from gospel to heroic to a sort of soul/pop mix. Making the Muses a gospel trio is probably the best part of the soundtrack, with infections songs like “Zero to Hero” and “A Star is Born” dominating. “Go the Distance” is probably the most memorable song from the film, though, and rightly so; it’s an anthem for persevering and chasing your dreams. I can almost guarantee that any kid who grew up in the early 90s could sing along with at least part of this song.

Though the musical numbers are the focus, the instrumental score composed by Alan Menken is full of gems as well. The latter portion of “The Gospel Truth/Main Title” is instrumental and features the main hero theme heard in the film, a fantastic horn fanfare that rings out proud. Menken also gives us some very different stuff, such as in “The Big Olive”. This track emulates the traditional “New York” style of music without using anything heavy-sounding, making it sound like what I’d imagine an ancient urban Greek city might have sounded like. Other standout tracks include “Meg’s Garden”, a sweet song that hints at the musical number “I Won’t Say (I’m in Love)” with some beautiful strings and piano, and even the short “Hercules’ Villa” is fun and a bit jazzy.

What more is there to say? The soundtrack to Hercules has something to offer for everyone, from great, flashy musical numbers to a beautiful, triumphant score by Alan Menken. Though it may not be as “classic” as Beauty and the Beast or AladdinHercules gives plenty of evidence as to why Alan Menken is one of the best musical composers, as well as one of the best animated film score composers, out there. 

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

  1. “Long Ago…”   0:31
  2. “The Gospel Truth I/Main Titles”   2:26
  3. “The Gospel Truth ll”   0:59
  4. “The Gospel Truth lll”   1:06
  5. “Go The Distance”   3:14
  6. “Oh Mighty Zeus”   0:46
  7. “Go The Distance (Reprise)”   0:58
  8. “One Last Hope”   3:01
  9. “Zero To Hero”   2:21
  10. “I Won’t Say (I’m In Love)”   2:20
  11. “A Star Is Born”   2:04
  12. “Go The Distance (Single)” – Michael Bolton   4:42
  13. “The Big Olive”   1:07
  14. “The Prophecy”   0:54
  15. “Destruction Of The Agora”   2:07
  16. “Phil’s Island”   2:25
  17. “Rodeo”   0:40
  18. “Speak Of The Devil”   1:31
  19. “The Hydra Battle”   3:28
  20. “Meg’s Garden”   1:14
  21. “Hercules’ Villa”   0:37
  22. “All Time Chump”   0:38
  23. “Cutting the Thread”   3:24
  24. “A True Hero / A Star is Born”   5:34

Total Length: app. 48 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad