Little Shop of Horrors is the dark story of a man that sacrifices human life to feed a monster that promises him a successful and happy life; a dark story that is brightened by Do-wop musical numbers and a giant puppet. The eclectic elements and incredibly talented cast gives the screen a rare treat in the form of one of the most entertaining musicals in recent memory. Director Frank Oz, being no stranger to musicals or puppeteering for that matter, uses his experience to weave together visuals and storytelling that borders between dream and nightmare.
The opening titles are the first thing to grab your attention. Theatrical music screams to life as a deep voiced narrator describes the setting of the film, his words scrolling across the screen from bottom to top. Immediately after the narrator finishes speaking the music changes and we’re treated to the movie’s titular theme song, sung by a new set of narrators; a group of three young women who lace the story with insightful information, through song; information that none of the characters themselves would possibly be able to know. Every song is filled to the brim with the dark humor and odd characters living in the strange world that this film takes place in.
There could not have been a better choice in cast for this movie. Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene are equal parts quirky and endearing as the odd pair of romantics in the overly pessimistic streets of skid row. Bill Murray, Steve Martin and John Candy are just a few people who make cameos in the film. The musical numbers are all catered to each of the singer’s personalities and struggles. The neurotic and socially awkward salesman (Moranis) Continually tests the limits of his conscience in order to secure both his own happiness as well as the happiness of those he cares most about. Both the use of Jim Henson style puppets and tongue-in-cheek jokes makes the movie feel like a Muppet movie gone horribly wrong, which, given the Director’s long history with the Muppets, isn’t far off. The production of the sets, costumes and props further ads to the aesthetics of the film, portraying every location as perfectly stereotypical. From the dentist office with it’s sterile white used as a backdrop to the sounds screaming children, to the “little shop” itself; a quintessential floral shop. The best use of sets is in the song where Audrey (Ellen Greene) dreams about her ideal future. During this segment we’re treated to one of the most stereotypical and hilarious ideas of the perfect life circa 1950, complete with separate beds for her and her husband.
Underneath the dark humor and catchy musical numbers lie a number of allegories and parallels to both the real world and age old tools of story telling. Foremost among these allegories is the cautionary tale that shows the danger of compromising ones morals in order to achieve any type of gain . With spoiling as little of the movie as possible, I simply want to recommend this movie to those that love musicals, dark humor, or Rick Moranis.