Tag Archives: howard ashman

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


Beauty and the Beast (1991)

What is there to say about Disney’s Beauty and the Beast other than to talk about how good it is?

Featuring relatively unknown actors in the lead roles (at least, unknown to me; Paige O’Hara and Robby Benson), with Angela Lansbury, David Ogden Stiers, and Jerry Orbach in delightful supporting roles, this film excels in humanizing its characters…even the ones who aren’t quite human anymore. We see the Beast’s change from a self-centered creature who wants nothing more than his human form back into a respectable man who loves this woman more than himself or his own wants. We also see Belle, an outcast in her village, fall in love with the Beast, an outcast in the strictest sense of the word – an unexpected match that shows that, deep down, they want the same thing: companionship and acceptance.

Richard White is a perfect blend of obnoxious and menace as the film’s villain, Gaston, a self-centered pig who aspires to do anything in his power to make Belle his wife…including arranging to have her father committed in an asylum to make her say “yes”. Songs like “Gaston” and “The Mob Song” define the character as arrogant, selfish, and violent, but, really, that’s what makes the character so much fun! He and his little friend Lefou bring lots of laughs to the screen (“Lefou, I’m afraid I’ve been thinking…”/”A dangerous pastime!”/”I know!”) while still allowing the audience to acknowledge that he is, indeed, the bad guy.

Flecked with colorful characters, brilliant artwork, and charming songs like “Be Our Guest” and “Something There”, as well as the ballad that manages to make me tear up every time I hear it, “Beauty and the Beast”, Beauty and the Beast, while not my personal favorite animated Disney movie, is still as magical now as it was when I first saw it on VHS in my living room as a child. Disney, the combined musical and lyrical genius of Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman, and the talented voice cast bring this story to life in a way that will be loved by viewers of all ages forever.

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

MPAA: G

-Chad

P.S. – Make sure to view the special edition of the film which includes the song “Human Again”!