A flower shop worker comes across an unusual species of plant that brings him great fortune, but at a great cost.
I don’t know how I’d never seen this film before sitting down to watch it for this review. All I’d known about the film was that was that it was a movie adaption of a Broadway play that had been based on the original Roger Corman movie starring Jonathan Haze, Jackie Joseph and Jack Nicholson, and that it featured a talking (singing) plant. Within the first few minutes of my viewing I was already smiling, and I knew that this would be a film that I found utterly enjoyable. This film is amazing in that it keeps with the ridiculous nature of Corman’s movies, while creating a world that feels fantastically silly and simultaneously filled with trenchant satirical observations on the stereotypes of the 50s and 60s. This film is wonderful, and it’s one that I’ll probably try to push people to watch every year around Halloween. If it weren’t for a few drug and sex references I’d say this film is appropriate for all ages; as it is, there are only one or two scenes that feel a little racy- I honestly think most preteens could enjoy this film without any issue at all.
“I don’t know… I have so many strong reservations. Should I go and perform mutilations?”
Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis, “Strange Brew”) is a meek-mannered man working on Mushnik’s Flower Shop, owned by Mushnik himself (Vincent Gardenia, “Death Wish”). After a strange and sudden eclipse, Seymour finds a unique plant that he brings back to Mushnik’s, which catapults the Shop and Seymour into new fame. Seymour cares less about fame and fortune and more about his fellow shop worker Audrey (Ellen Greene, “Leon The Professional”), but Audrey is dating the masochistic Dentist Orin Scrivello (Steve Martin, “Roxanne”). As Seymour tries to get his plant to grow, he realizes that there is one secret thing the plant really desires: fresh human blood.
What I love about this film is its ability to create a fantastical world that is filled with cartoonish characters that still feel real enough to tug on your heartstrings. One of my favorite examples of this is Audrey’s character, who is so painfully weak-willed that it becomes slightly hilarious, but we still feel horrible for her as she slogs through some difficult circumstances. Audrey’s driving force in life is to ‘find a man she can follow blindly,’ which is absolutely ridiculous as character motivation, unless of course it’s meant to be satire. That satire is played into heavily when Audrey sings the song, ‘Somewhere that’s Green,’ in which Audrey daydreams about the lives she reads about in Better Homes and Gardens Magazine. At first, I found Audrey’s character to be slightly annoying (partially because of her squeaky voice, but primarily because of her spineless demeanor), but as the film went on, it became apparent that the weak willed nature just made her and Seymour more perfect for one another. I also loved Steve Martin in this movie. His character- the masochistic dentist- is an absolutely hysterical. He plays into the character in a way that only Steve Martin could do- by throwing himself at the role wholeheartedly. I love the way that they portray him as a ‘bad boy dentist’- a man that got into the profession because he likes causing people pain, frequently huffs nitrous oxide, and yells at Audrey for falling off his motorcycle. The film does a great job of making him a detestable character without breaking the cartoon-like charm that pervades the entire movie.
Another thing I really liked about the film was Audrey II itself, that is, the singing man-eating plant named after Audrey. The plant was done with all practical effects, and I was absolutely floored by the amount of detail that went into it. The limbs (or rather, the vines) were all articulated and able to wrap themselves around different things or items, and the mouth and lips moved to form every word the plant spoke. The plant also grew on screen at different point in the movie, and again, all of this was done with practical effects and puppetry. Audrey II also rides the line between humorous and cartoonish and deviously devilish quite well (he’s never frightening by any means). I think the thing that I like the most about this film however, was the very ending, which felt incredibly reminiscent of 50s and 60s monster movies like “Them!”, “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms”, or “The Blob”, where the ending just goes completely off the rails. (I suppose some spoilers, but really this movie is enjoyable no matter how much you know about it). At the end, the plants take over the world, and quite literally destroy New York and the surrounding area; it is gloriously over the top and chaotic. I couldn’t help but chuckle for the last ten minutes as we watch plants devour people, smash through buildings, and parade through the streets like “Godzilla” through Tokyo. What is perhaps most impressive about those scenes is the scale; the sets constructed for this film must’ve been absolutely enormous. I read that every scene of this film was shot on set instead of on location because they wanted the film to have a fantastical feeling, and for me, this worked incredibly well.
If I were to say one negative thing about this movie it’s that it is almost innocent enough that’d I’d recommend it to younger audiences as well. I really think this movie has songs and characters that almost everybody could enjoy, but there are a few things that hold me back from recommending it to people under the age of ten. Really, this movie is almost a perfect family movie if it weren’t for the abuse hinted at (never shown onscreen), Steve Martin huffing laughing gas, and a scene with Bill Murray where he plays one of Martin’s patients whom is aroused by pain. If it weren’t for those few scenes, I’d say everyone could watch this movie. As it is now, it’s still a very tame PG-13 film, one that I feel most audiences could enjoy (over ten shouldn’t have a problem).
I absolutely loved this movie, and I’m kind of upset I didn’t go out of my way to see it sooner. This movie is a hysterical parody of 50s monster movies that boasts hysterical moments and cameos, unforgettably catchy songs, and wears its huge sentimental heart on its sleeve; I can’t recommend this enough.
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