Picks and Pans Review: Little Shop of Horrors

updated 01/12/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/12/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

Just when you thought Hollywood had lost the knack for making musicals, along comes this raucous rib-tickler to put a song and a scare in your heart. Based on the off-Broadway musical hit, Little Shop is packed with irresistible silliness. Rick (Ghostbusters) Moranis plays Seymour, a shnook who tends plants in a tacky flower shop. Three singing street urchins named Ronette, Crystal and Chiffon (delightfully sh'bopped by Michelle Weeks, Tichina Arnold and Tisha Campbell) act as a chorus for the drama ahead. Seymour pines for Audrey (Ellen Greene), a ditzy blond flower arranger with a penchant for push-up bras and abusive men (see p. 43). One day Seymour happens on a tiny fly trap plant. When the bud starts burgeoning to bozo size, Seymour sees his chance at winning fame, money and his woman. There's a catch: The plant, winningly designed by Lyle Conway, thrives on blood. "Feed me, Seymour," sings the "mean green mother from outer space" in the potent voice of Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops. Seymour finds plant food in the person of Audrey's sadistic boyfriend (Steve Martin), a biker dentist who enjoys torturing his patients. In black Elvis wig and leather jacket, Martin is savagely funny; an Oscar nomination seems a good idea. Greene, in the part she originated onstage, does a star-making turn. Singing of her dream life as a housewife who "cooks like Betty Crocker and looks like Donna Reed," she never patronizes her role. Screenwriter-lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken, whose score is sly and sassy, give her two movie-stopping ballads (Somewhere That's Green and Suddenly, Seymour). There are tasty bits by John Candy, Christopher Guest, James Belushi and especially Bill Murray as Martin's most masochistic patient. If director Frank (The Muppets Take Manhattan) Oz misplaces the show's pocket-size charm in mounting a big-screen climax, he more than compensates by showing that musicals can still be magic. (PG-13)

From Our Partners