Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (2008)
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Starring: Nathan Fillion, Felicia Day, Neil Patrick Harris
Studio: Mutant Enemy Productions/New Video NYC
Video: 16:9 color [also available on Blu-ray]
Audio: DD 5.1 and 2.0
Extras: Commentary track by cast and creators, “Commentary The Musical” with new music, “The Making of Dr. Horrible” featurettes, many amateur Evil League of Evil Application Videos from fans
Length: 42 min.; Extras: 92 min.
I’d heard about this off-the-wall project early on and was planning to have a look at it online, but more important work intervened and I must say I wasn’t looking forward to the tiny portion of the screen display and dicey loading. Now here is the whole thing, assembled from the short segments presented online as this crazy soap opera concerning superheros progressed. Plus more extras than you dreamed of that you couldn’t see online – so many fan-made videos that I couldn’t possibly get thru all of them (but don’t miss the one with the ex-mohels in traditional Jewish garb).
I was reminded of Jacque Demy’s musicals in the way the characters in Dr. Horrible’s are speaking to the camera or to another person and then suddenly break into song without any introduction. Billy, the main character who speaks directly to the camera, supposedly on his special channel, has another personality as a budding supervillain who plans to eventually dominate the world with his evil ways. His main goal is that his evil deeds will qualify him for acceptance into the Evil League of Evil, headed by the evilest of all – Bad Horse (who in the conclusion turns out to be a real horse – which surprised not just viewers but even the other actors). Billy’s other goal is to have a relationship with Penny – a girl in the laundromat he goes to – to whom he has at first not even spoken. However, Dr. Horrible’s arch nemesis stands in his way – Captain Hammer (played by one of the lead actors in Whedon’s terrific mix of Western oater and sci-fi oater Firefly, and its feature theatrical film Serenity). Every time they run into each other, Dr. Horrible gets beaten up and shown up, as he struggles to do evil enough to get himself into the E.L.E. as well as earn Penny’s respect and lure her away from the attentions of Captain Hammer.
The series was dreamt up by Whedon, his brothers Jed and Zack, and Maurissa Tancharoen joined all of them in writing. Jed composed the music, which along with the commentary was recorded first in their home on the lowest of budgets. When Billy sings his first song to the camera and four guys in cowboy outfits pop up on the sides of the screen singing the chorus, you’ve got to be rolling in the aisles. Actor Fillion says in the Making Of featurette that this was the first production he was ever in where the director told him “More cheese!” rather than less. According to the Wedons, Dr. Horrible’s puts power in the hands of the artists and performers instead of the studios, thru using the Internet. While it was super low budget, it appears and sounds mostly up to professional standards; the only slight indication is at Captain Hammer’s speech to the crowd, which was rather sparsely attended. The series has appeared on over ten Top Ten lists including Time, The San Francisco Chronicle, TV Guide and the AFI. You may not really want to sing along, but if you have a funny bone in your body, you should see this, online or on DVD or Blu-ray.
– John Sunier