May 20 2011
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (2008)
Cheer for the villain? Hate the “hero?” Listen to people sing catchy songs? Have Joss Whedon turn superhero/villain tropes on their heads? You’ll do all this and and more when you watch “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.” For those who’ve never seen it, go now and watch it then read this review because I’m afraid there’s no way to praise and talk about it without giving everything away.
Dr. Horrible – who has a PhD in Horribleness (Neil Patrick Harris) – is an aspiring supervillain trying to get accepted into the Evil League of Evil (ELE) headed by Bad Horse (who has an evil death whinny) – the Thoroughbred of Sin. But he’s also in love with shy, Penny (Felicia Day) whom he met in the Laundromat though since he’s also shy, he’s never worked up the courage to actually talk to her.
Dr. Horrible’s application to the ELE is being considered but he needs to pull off a major act of evil or Bad Horse will vote “neigh.” It’s just Dr. Horrible’s bad luck that as he’s attempting to steal the Wonderflonium needed for his Freeze Ray, he runs into Penny who’s trying to get a shelter opened for homeless people. Just as it looks like the heist is a done deal, his nemesis, the self absorbed Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion), appears and takes the credit for saving the day.
To Dr. Horrible’s dismay, Hammer starts to date Penny and even contemplates sleeping with her twice – cause that’s when you get to do the weird stuff. Outraged that Hammer is merely after Penny to piss him off, Dr. Horrible decides to turn his Freeze Ray into a Death Ray and take Hammer out. Can Dr. Horrible defeat the shallow Captain Hammer? Will he get the girl? And will his application to the ELE finally be accepted?
Out of boredom during the writers’ strike, Joss Whedon et al created a wonderful three part Internet series. It’s a musical! It’s SF! It’s funny! And it’s poignant too. In a little over forty minutes, they make me care for a character whose stated aim is to overturn the world order and create a new one through anarchy. An evil character who has standards – he’s working with a voice coach to perfect his evil laugh and who also loves the girl-next-door – or rather the girl-using-the-next-washing machine-at-the-laundromat. They also turn who would usually be the hero into a boorish Corporate Tool with the depth of a piece of paper.
The actors cast are mostly terrific. Harris is sweet and vulnerable in his yearning for Penny and then lost when he’s achieved his aim but at the cost of woman he loves. I want him to get the cool weapon and defeat Hammer and get into the ELE. Fillion is perfect as the assholic “hero” more concerned with how good his hair looks and beating out Dr. Horrible for the girl than he is with the needs of the smelly, alcoholic homeless people who smell like poo. He’s so un-PC that I love him despite his smarmy self centeredness and the fact that he’s a dick (“The hammer is my penis.”) Felicia Day makes Penny the slightly nerdish woman who is beginning to realize her mistake in dating Hammer just a little bit too late. But honestly, Horrible and Hammer are such great characters that, to me, Penny tends to get lost in between them.
And these people can sing! And the songs are catchy and stay in your head because the lyrics are smart. I almost wanted to stop the DVD each time and rerun it to listen to the words again. The songs aren’t just there for musical filler but define the characters and advance the plot. Watch for the three groupies and the Bad Horse Chorus adding their bits to the story.
The three acts were filmed in six days and it shows at times. There are some “they lost the light” shots and a scene that plunges into darkness but I was so focused on the story that the first time or three through, I didn’t even notice. But despite some problems, what they all managed to accomplish in that amount of time and with that little money is freaking amazing. The awards and the acclaim that “Dr. Horrible” have garnered are a testimony to the talent here.
The ending is sad. Both the death of Penny and the way it affects Dr. Horrible. It’s got that bittersweet tinge as Horrible gains everything he’s ever wanted but now he’s got no one to share it with. He and Penny were really acting for the same results only Horrible uses anarchy while Penny was using peaceful, social change. But I don’t think the ending would have worked any other way. I can’t see gentle Penny being comfortable with a super villain boyfriend yet she’d also be miserable with Hammer the bastard “hero.”
Opinions on this one range from uber love (the majority) to ultra hate. TBH, it’s the character of Penny – the headlines nailed it when they called her “what’s her name” – who lowers the grade for me. Yes, Day can sing but otherwise she’s like a candle beside the klieg lights that are Horrible and Hammer. For the most part it’s OTT camp mixed with fun snark and catchy lyrics plus a dollop of drama in the thought provoking ending. I don’t like everything Whedon’s ever developed but this one I do. B+