Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog
Review by Ernest Lilley
Mutant Enemy DVD ISBN/ITEM#: B001M5UDGS
Date: 27 December 2008 List Price $14.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
During the writer's strike of 2008, evidently Jos Wheedon and a bunch of bored friends got together to produce a low budget anti-superhero romp. A musical, anti-superhero romp. Starring Neal Patrick Harris (Doogie Houser, How I Met Your Mother), Nathan Fillion (Firefly) and Felicia Day (The Guild). It's darkly campy, brilliantly funny, and deeply tragic. Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is absolutely brilliant and deserves serious Hugo consideration.
There's never a Hugo ballot around when you need one. That's what I thought when a friend came over and popped her copy of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog into my DVD player.
Dr. Horrible, aka Billy, is none other than nerdy Neal Patrick Harris (Doogie Houser, MD, How I Met Your Mother) and he's a new breed of evil genius. One with a sing-along video blog, obviously. Though the sing-along part is up to you. What it really means is that this is a musical, much like the classic Buffy episode which you all no doubt know by heart and I only know by rumor. Sections of the video blog are interspersed between scenes out in Dr. Horrible/Billy's real world, which largely consists of hanging out at the Laundromat trying to work up the courage to talk to Penny, the girl of his dreams, staging capers to get materials for his evil inventions, getting beaten up by Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillon - Firefly). It's a brilliant way to excise the fourth wall, and I won't be surprised if it becomes standard fare.
Dr. Horrible is out to save the world from the status quo, which he points out just isn't all that "quo". To do so, he's embraced evil and the result is a man wavering on the edge. Sure, he teleported gold bullion from a bank vault, but not to get rich, which is good because the resulting powder isn't worth much, and smells like cumin besides. No, he's out to to undermine the foundation of normalcy supported by the economic system. He's not into hurting people per se, though he may have to if he's going to fulfill his ambition of getting into the Evil League of Evil, cause they don't take posers.
Captain Hammer, Dr. Horrible's nemesis, is an over-the-top hero that makes you wonder what's so good about the good guys. He's a bit dim, truth be told, but that's not so much a problem since he's never found a problem he couldn't pummel into oblivion. And it's more than likely that he'll wind up getting the girl. Which is a truly horrific prospect.
Being a superhero isn't what it used to be, thanks to the long decline since DC Comics days of rock-jawed purity (which came about after the really dark days before the Comic Code). First there was the teen angst heroes of Marvel Comics, then the explosion of small press comics by small but brilliant houses. So we've gotten used to conflicted heroes. Conflicted villains is still pretty much untrod territory for most folks, but as we see in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, the lines between good and evil really are pretty blurry, and anyone on either side that's not a bit conflicted just isn't paying attention.
The special effects are impeccably executed, and used with wonderful economy. I don't know if they were done with a Mac and some Adobe tools or if they were done in the middle of the night in some Pixar facility, but it doesn't matter, because they don't matter. The SFX are only here to add a little credibility to the story line, and the story line itself is what it's all about. And the singing. Which is pretty terrific in its own right.
Most musicals start out on stage and only make it to video after a long and successful play. Rocky Horror Picture Show and Little Shop of Horrors are about the only two that I can think of that have successfully done it, though I wish someone would film the off, off, off Broadway Elvis tribute, Viva Los Alamos. Even more than that though, I'd like to see Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog translated to the stage, both amateur and professional. It has simple sets, great songs, and deals with real world issues in a campy way that doesn't hide the deeper meaning.
In the meantime, you can buy it from Amazon or just go to the Dr. Horrible website to play it in HD Video on your computer. Either way, I guarantee you'll never look at supervillians/heroes the same way again. Highly recommended.
While you're off watching it I'll work on my evil laugh.
Mu ha ha. MUH ha ha. Muh Ha Ha...