Review Summary: "Buffy" creator turns "How I Met Your Mother" star into evil singing genius. Not something you see every day, is it?
The Writers Guild of America strike affected a lot of different groups and individuals for a variety of reasons. The staff of many scripted shows had their programs delayed, cut short or even cancelled. Talk shows and their writers and staff, for everyone from Letterman to Leno, were in jeopardy. The strike divided many actors, agents, producers, politicians and unions all across the state.
One man, however, simply got bored and felt the need to create.
His name was Joss Whedon.
What resulted was an online phenomenon; a three-act musical entitled Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
. Dr. Horrible (a perfectly cast Neil Patrick Harris) is a struggling super-villain, whilst his arch nemesis Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillon) sucks up all the glory- including stealing the Doctor’s crush, the homeless carer Penny (Felicia Day). To achieve his revenge, as well as finally get accepted into the Evil League of Evil, he must create his most powerful invention yet- the freeze ray. Whilst the short film itself is a brilliant, sardonic romp, the songs themselves are the true standout- well-written, devilishly melodramatic and consistently diverse compositions that will please nearly every possible music (and, indeed, musical
“My Freeze Ray” is the first track to feature vocals. Performed by Harris from the perspective of Dr. Horrible’s human alter ego, the incredibly shy Billy, the song depicts his secretive love for Penny as they both use the laundromat over some cheesy keyboards and a rollicking drum beat. He fantasises about a future where he rules the world by her side (“I’ll bend the world to our will/And we’ll make time stand still”), presenting a quite comedic, likeable side to his character in the process. This side of Billy/Dr. Horrible, however, simply does not last, as we are soon to find out.
After having both the spotlight and his love interest taken from him, Dr. Horrible snaps on album highlight “Brand New Day”, which accompanies his frantic state of mind with both fast-paced, minimalist beats through the verses and heavily-toned guitar come chorus time. Meanwhile, Captain Hammer leads the crowd in the pseudo-inspirational “Everyone’s A Hero”. A spot-on parody of big-production 80s balladry, Hammer egotistically tries to show his faith in humanity and supporting the homeless by saying that “everyone’s got their own villains they must face”…although, they’re “not as cool” as his.
“So They Say’ involves the entire cast, ending the second act and bringing in the third and final act. Dr. Horrible accepts his romantic defeat (“There’s no happy ending…well, not for me, anyway”), Penny and Captain Hammer help with the homeless shelter (Penny: “We’ll have blankets and beds we can open by Monday, thanks to you”/ Hammer: “Thanks to ME!”) and the particularly hilarious obsessive stalkers sing about their hero, Captain Hammer, in wonderful three-part harmonies (“This is his dry cleaning bill: four sweater-vests!”).
As the emotions range greatly for the different characters, so too do the songs themselves. The soundtrack is nearly entirely the work of Whedon, both musically and lyrically. He works in chameleon-like fashion from sorrow, to anger, to jealousy, to optimism…and all the way back. His songwriting skill is shockingly impressive, especially considering his previous experience is one Buffy
episode; “Once More With Feeling”. Many traits give the song distinctive, unique style; in particular is where Harris and Day sing at the same time, with similar verses yet with entirely contrasting emotions. This can be found in “My Eyes” and “So They Say”, working to portray the state of mind of both characters.
Neil Patrick Harris (whose other work includes the hilarious Prop 8- The Musical
and the not-so-hilarious How I Met Your Mother
) holds his own throughout the soundtrack as a vocalist. This is somewhat unsurprising, given his Broadway background; but is still undeniably a credit to his role as the star of Dr. Horrible
. Even listening to the songs on their own without viewing his character’s facial expression, you can tell the emotion and demeanour of the character the second he begins to sing.
His supporting cast also turn in some wonderful moments. Whedon’s cameo (along with his two brothers) as a part of the “Bad Horse Chorus” is a small gem. Felicia Day has a cute, vulnerable tone to her vocals, which suits her character faultlessly. Nathan Fillon effortlessly hits the nail on the head (forgive the pun), with his beefy, masculine voice which purposely serves purpose as not only making him sound like a tough guy, but also like an idiot.
There’s not a lot to fault about Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
. It’s clever, it’s funny, it’s another jewel in Joss Whedon’s crown…but most importantly, it is a hugely original concept, masterfully executed. One could only wish that the adventure went on for a little longer.
TO WATCH AND LISTEN TO DR. HORRIBLE'S SING-ALONG BLOG VISIT: