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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #82
March 11, 2009

She's A Maneater!

Little Shop of Horrors + Botanic Garden Visit

"Feed me!" is not exactly a polite way of asking for an after school snack, but the plant-turned-vampire in Little Shop of Horrors has no mom to tell him to mind his manners. Part musical-comedy and part faux-horror story, this movie has all the elements to keep kids tuned in: campy music, a sweet romance and a science fiction premise all rolled into one. Mr. Mushnick's dusty flower shop on Skid Row has barely a customer until Seymour, his nerdy employee, discovers a plant from outer space that feeds on human blood. Seymour names the plant Audrey, after the ditzy blonde he adores, who (of course) is in love with bad boy, motorcycle-riding dentist, played by Steve Martin. The plant grows and grows, bringing both the flower shop and Seymour fame, but there's a catch: Seymour must go beyond pricking his finger to satisfy the plant, pushing Audrey and Seymour to find human meals and, in the process, find each other. Mom always said to have lots of protein...

Green thumbs or not, your kids will be enticed by a visit to your local Botanic Gardens. Upon entry, we were engulfed in a moist atmosphere perfect for rain forest plants, misty clouds and even a ... Venus Fly Trap. Our kids watched through a microscope as  carnivorous plants munched through a meal of insects, just like meat-eating Audrey in the movie. Our fourth grade boys thought this was pretty cool, though they were convinced the plant was actually a chameleon-like animal in disguise. Their argument gained traction in the orchid section, where they learned how certain orchids evolved to look like insects; if a plant can disguise itself as an insect, certainly an animal can disguise itself as a plant! Our little sleuths continued down the garden path and found an experiment where they learned how a Pitcher Plant's "juice" is acidic enough to dissolve prey. Oohhh, a plant that liquifies its prey -- just like an evil extra-planetary being! Maybe Audrey wasn't such a far-fetched idea, after all.

 
Film Title: Little Shop of Horrors
Directed By: Frank Oz
1986, Rated PG-13, 94 minutes


Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this film:

  • Why This Film is Worth It:  It is sweet and campy, but the raucous carniverous plant could scare younger kids. The tone of the film makes up for its horrifying premise, but kids need some maturity to get that it's all in fun. We recommend this film for kids in upper elementary or middle school.
  • Younger ViewersFerngully:The Last Rainforest is a primer on all things botanical.
  • Star Power: We got a kick out of the all-star cast, many of whom our kids know from contemporary films: Steve Martin stars as Audrey's masochistic dentist boyfriend, Rick Moranis plays Seymour, and James Belushi, John Candy, Christopher Guest and Bill Murray all turn in hilarious cameos.
  • A Little History: The Little Shop of Horrors was first conceived of by B-movie king Roger Corman in 1960; it was best known for being shot in a week. Re-born as an off-Broadway show, The Little Shop of Horrors wowed audiences for years. Ellen Green, who starred as Audrey in the off-Broadway musical, is the only actor from the stage show who appeared in the film version.
  • COOL FACT: Audrey II is a puppet that was designed and operated by the Jim Henson Company. Director Frank Oz got his start with Henson's show, The Muppets.

Our tips for talking to your kids about this film:

  • Character Savvy: This is a plant that has personality.  How does the director make Audrey a character in its own right?  Think about the music as Audrey's most engaging form of communication ("I'm a mean green Mother from outer space...").
  • Cinema Savvy: The theatrical version of Little Shop ended with the plant devouring Audrey and Seymour en route to taking over the world. This same ending was filmed for the movie, but audiences were upset and a Hollywood ending was added. Ask the kids which ending makes more sense considering the film's message about success.
  • Music Savvy: Crystal, Ronnette and Chiffon (named for '50s/60s girl groups) serve as a Greek chorus, appearing now and then to give viewers context through their songs' lyrics. Sometimes the song in a musical is just fun 'filler' and sometimes the lyrics push the action of the story ahead. Can the kids distinguish one from another in this movie?


 

Botanic Garden Visit

Time Allotment: 2 hours

Age Recommendation: Strollerbabes and up



Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Popcorn Adventure:

  • What Worked for Us: We found this adventure was great for different aged kids. Younger kids could scamper about in the damp atmosphere, while older were engaged with some excellent teaching materials provided by docents. It was good to have some water packed, because we got thirsty after being in the muggy environment.
  • Before You Go: Do a bit of online research to see what plants will be at the garden, and if the venue has educational materials on their website.

Our City Editors' tips for enjoying this Popcorn Adventure around the USA:

  • Anywhere: Google your city + botanical garden; gardens or check Botanical Gardens in the USA. Be sure you distinguish between the many wonderful outdoor offerings and a Conservatory or Greenhouse, which is kept humid and specializes in tropical plants.
  • Boston: The Botanic Garden of Smith College's Lyman Conservatory is open to visitors most days on the year.
  • Chicago: Located in Glencoe, the Chicago Botanic Garden is a respite for nature-starved city folk, and features a Greenhouse for indoor plants.  Check the website for hands-on events and camps.
  • Houston: The Warren Loose Conservatory at the Beaumont Botanical Gardens is open for visitors year round, with a minimal charge for admission and a tour.
  • New York: The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx is open year-round. At the Brooklyn Botanic Garden enjoy the view from the Overlook, or tour the Japanese gardens. Check the website for special events and to see what's in bloom.
  • San Francisco, CA: The Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park has amazing aquatic and lowland plants. Check hours and fee.  The San Francisco Botanical Gardens, also in Golden Gate Park is free and open every day. Walk through outside climate gardens and head to the duck pond for a great picnicking spot.
  • Washington, DC: Visit the U.S. Botanical Gardens Conservatory and the National Gardens at the Capitol. Throughout the Conservatory you will find demonstrations, children's activities, and exhibits.  

 
Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.



Want to watch more movie musicals that made made their way to Broadway? Click here and see our favorites at the Kids Off the Couch store at Amazon.com.

Click here to visit the Kids Off the Couch store at Amazon.com, and find books on flowers and gardening.