Reel Geek’s Retro Review:Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

I first saw Little Shop of Horrors when it came out in theaters back in 1986.  I was 6 and I fell in love with this movie. It’s probably inappropriate for children’s entertainment by today’s parenting standards, but  things were different when I was a kid. 

I loved everything about the movie, the characters, the dialogue, and especially the music by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, who not too long after this wrote the music for Disney classics like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin.  

The soundtrack to this movie was the first live action musical, non Disney, that I’d ever heard, and loved it. I remember my cousin made a bootleg tape of it for me, which stayed on repeat in my Walkman for a few years after.  But, does it hold up today, some 31 years after release? 

Little Shop of Horrors began as a B movie made by Roger Coleman in 1960, it’s black comedy and effects, as well as a cameo appearance from a young Jack Nicholson kept this movie alive and inspired an off broadway musical version in 1982, which four years later became a movie in its own right. 

In case you’ve never seen this movie, it tells the story of Seymour Krelboyne (Rick Moranis-Ghostbusters, Honey I Shrunk The Kids) a down on his luck orphaned nerd who’s spent the majority of his life working and living at Mr. Mushnick’s (Vincent Gardenia-Moonstruck) Florist Shop. He pines to be with his co worker Audrey (Ellen Greene-Pushing Daisies) but she’s with an abusive dentist played by Steve Martin (Parenthood) .

One day, Seymour comes across a strange and unusual plant, which he buys and takes back to the shop, which he soon finds out takes a little more than just plant food to keep alive. 

The movie, like the rest of the Ashman/Menken combos, still holds up to this day.  The movie has a real old school musical feel to it, with an expansion on the sets that make it feel like a staged reality.  The cast is all on the top of their game here, and really who would have thought Rick Moranis can carry a musical?  

There are some great cameos throughout the film, from Christopher Guest (Spinal Tap), to Bill Murray, as well.  The real star of this film though is the talking, singing, man eating plant Audrey II, voiced by Levi Stubbs.   His plant was so charming and charismatic he didn’t even need the hypnotic ability that the plant in the original film had. 

Also of note are the three chorus girls of the film played by Tisha Campbell, Tichina Arnold (both later cast mates on the 90’s sitcom Martin!) and Michelle Weeks, they narrate the film musically and pop up in most of the songs in the movie, and it works so well.

The one thing that I have to say about the movie that isn’t just a glowing review of it is that I saw the directors cut with the original, darker ending not long ago, and now watching the theatrical cut you can tell where the new footage got added into the film, so it makes the happy ending, that I loved so much growing up, feel false.   It isn’t to say it’s a bad movie now, the studio and test screening influenced ending feels totally different than how the movie was set up to play out.  

If you’re a fan of musicals, of  fun movies in general you’ll love this movie. And if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s actually streaming on Hulu right now.  

Little Shop of Horrors: A- 


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