Little Shop of Horrors ★★★★½

I’m not the biggest fan of stage musicals, and probably less a fan of movie musicals, but I can safely say that this is one of the finest of the form when it comes to the latter. Frank Oz, surely tapped for the project thanks to his puppetry background, excels at that part—Audrey II is an incredible piece of work. But Oz deserves even more credit for bringing vitality, wit and ingenuity to his direction. Shot on a soundstage, it feels like a staged musical, but the movie belies that feeling thanks to a kinetic camera and ability to deftly make montages out of what are obviously stage transitions.

The theatrical cut, which excises the cynicism and dark comedy of the original ending to the stage adaptation (of Roger Corman’s original film) isn’t terribly disappointing on a story level. After all, there was no way a movie destined for mainstream audiences could successfully take its b-movie and off-broadway sensibility to the masses and not alienate.

But what did disappoint me, after also watching the climax from the director’s cut, is how much more impressive the sequence looked and played as originally shot. Oz may have gotten himself a bigger audience out of the reshoots, but he did so at the expense of his own prowess. The original is so much more dynamic and expressive. And no offense to Jim Belushi, but Paul Dooley made a better Patrick Martin.