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July 23, 2008 | Comments ()


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Please Give Me a Sec to Catch My Breath

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog / Dustin Rowles

Film Reviews | July 23, 2008 | Comments ()


Jesus in a Bowling Ball Hole. How the hell am I supposed to review a flippin’ 42-minute web musical? There’s nothing in the goddamn movie critic’s handbook about web musicals. And there’s no movie review jargon, like “too cute by half” befitting this strange newfangled medium. Where’s Joel Seigel when I need him? Where’s Anthony Lane to provide some humorless, poncied advice? I mean, come on: Web videos? With plot? Production values? Real actors and actresses? Scripts? And intentional comedic value? This is all very foreign to me, and I don’t think Weezer is going to be able to fit this into their next music video.

Fuck. This blows, because after watching Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog three times (I only paid once! Man, did I pull a fast one on somebody or what!), I need Roeper’s guidance, because the only damn word I can come up with is the decidedly unpretentious: “Awesome!” Of course, I don’t mean awesome in the traditional sense, like breaking your own hackey-sack record or scoring a scoop of Ben and Jerry’s Cinnamon Bun ice cream on free ice cream day. I mean awesome like the time that Phoebe Cates rode around on a horse topless or the way Daniel Craig removes a sweaty t-shirt after a work-out. You know: Awesome in the biblical sense. In its purest distillation — as in, showing or characterized by awe. As in, I feel the same way about Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog as sandal-wearing, acoustic guitar-playing Baptist youth ministers feel about God and virgins.

In fact, it’s been a good week all around. If The Dark Knight was the best movie of all time, according to iMDB at least, then Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is the greatest web-produced content of all time, crushing that insufferable little Pearl, Will Ferrell’s precocious landlord, into a fine mist of toddler-ash and pigtails. Sure, a five-year old swearing is funny, but you haven’t lived until you’ve heard Neil Patrick Harris’ Dr. Horrible sing about ruling the world and winning the girl with his freeze ray. The songs! You likely won’t find a lover of musicals anywhere among the Pajiba staff, but these aren’t your typical Andrew Lloyd Webber ditties — these are songs with brilliant, witty lyrics, and melodies catchier than a Tay Zonday syphilitic earworm. Only, you know, they’re good. The kind of songs you’d put on a mix-tape for that perfect girl you want to someday win over by developing a freeze ray that stops … the world.

For those of you unfamiliar with Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (hi! Welcome to Pajiba. Please don’t feed the Godtopus), it’s a tragicomic musical in three acts produced and directed by Joss Whedon (er … “Firefly,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), who wrote it along with his brothers Zack and Jed and his fiancĂ©e Maurissa Tancharoen during the recent writer’s strike because they didn’t have anything better to do, and the WGA didn’t expressly prohibit writing content for the Internet. So, yay! for the writer’s strike.

The musical follows the decidedly non-horrible Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris), an aspiring super-villain with a PhD in horribleness hoping to get his credentials and join the Evil League of Evil. He’s sort of a bumbling, awkward sympathetically likable guy, whose heart is in the right place … sorta. “The world is a mess,” he says. “And I just need to rule it.” He’s also got a Willie Aames-ish sweaty buddy, Moist (Simon Helberg), whose powers only extend to dampening things.

Dr. Horrible is also madly, upbeat-ballad in love with Penny (Felicia Day), a cute-as-a-button-if-buttons-were-sexy woman he develops a friendship with at the Laundromat. Penny is a volunteer for the Caring Hands Homeless Shelter; she collects signatures in the hopes of acquiring a rundown building to turn into a new shelter. Dr. Horrible — despite what his names suggests — even signs the petition, though he does reason that the homeless are a symptom, and the “disease rages on, consumes the human race.” “The fish rots from the head,” he says, “so why not cut off the head?”

Horrible’s arch-nemisis is Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion) who is basically a superhero tool, a muscle-bound goober, “hair blowing in the breeze.” He has a deeper third level which is the same as his top layer, “like with pie,” which is to say he’s a hat full of ass. He’s bluster, bravado, and fake machismo. He’s fun to hate, especially after Horrible is cock-blocked by one of his own evil machinations — he nearly kills Penny, Hammer saves her, and the two of them start dating, setting up the love triangle that unfolds over the course of Acts II and III. Horrible wants to spend his life with Penny, while Hammer just wants to have sex with her a second time, cause that’s when they do the weird stuff.

Over the course of the 42 minute run-time, Dr. Horrible is as heartfelt as it is hilarious, as touching as it is tragic, and as smart as it is fun to watch. It’s the candy trifecta: Eye, brain, and ear. NPH has an impeccable voice, Felicia Day is unbelievably endearing, and Nathan Fillion is awesomely dickish. In fact, at less than an hour and only $6, the only reason not to watch Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog would be because you don’t want to give into the sometimes insufferable hype and the over-aggressiveness of the Browncoats, the Whedonites, or whatever they call themselves these days, some of whom have a tendency to wish mainstream success for Whedon and his entourage while remaining steadfastly territorial (He’s ours! Please watch his show.). Somehow, Whedon has managed to consistently put out superior films despite catering to a fanbase comprised mainly of tongue-wagging, sycophantic Comic-Con nerds who haven’t seen a vagina since the day they emerged from one, mostly because those sycophants have impeccable tastes. But they shouldn’t take anything away from the wonderfully sweet Dr. Horrible, proof that there’s more to made-for-Internet video than inadvertent celebrities, viral marketing, and movie trailer mash-ups.

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