Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

A sequel would be nice, of course

I confess to never having been extremely interested in Joss Whedon’s work (and it’s not only because of having a girlfriend back in high school who was obsessed with Buffy), but when the love of the stage musical is passionately translated to screen (and in an original production, no less), I’ll give any director a chance.

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is a 42-minute film, originally posted in three installments on the internet, which brings the concept of the musical to the screen in a way not done since The Rocky Horror Picture Show (the biggest difference being this is not an adaptation of a stage work).  Whedon’s film features Neil Patrick Harris as Billy, also known as Doctor Horrible, a weaselly-but-sweet science genius who wants to become a supervillain, hoping to stake his claim by joining the Evil League of Evil, led by the mysterious Bad Horse.  He seems to be on the right track until his laundromat crush, Penny (Felicia Day) falls for his arch-nemesis, the brawny and foppish Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion), who serves as the city’s superhero but seems to frequently cause more harm than good.  Horrible becomes distracted, and due to his failures, is told the only way he can prove he is evil enough to join the league is by carrying out an assassination.

The film is told at the outset through video-blog entries by Horrible himself, during which he reads and answers emails from his fans.  The songs, which occupy a refreshing majority of the film’s storytelling time, are well-written and full of heart, not to mention performed with staggering passion and talent by the cast.  Harris’ singing ability is no secret, and Felicia Day plays Penny as a stout-hearted and tragic woman who sings away her pain.  Fillion’s vocals are good enough, though his role doesn’t require Hammer to be an amazing singer.  Bad Horse, who turns out to be an actual horse, makes his presence known through singing cowboys, who may or may not actually exist, conveying the will of the League’s leader to Horrible via song.  My favorite pieces from the film include “My Eyes,” “Bad Horse Chorus,” “A Man’s Gotta Do” and “Brand New Day.”

The short run time causes the film’s story to be terse and tightly-told, giving us time to get to know Horrible, our lovable anti-hero, and root him all the way to the end.  This is the type of work Whedon should stick to – Buffy was his TV legacy, and the upcoming Avengers is a great opportunity to make some money and become a Hollywood name, but Dr. Horrible‘s heart is undeniable, and the sheer amount of care by the cast and crew is supremely evident.

More than a nerd gem, Dr. Horrible is independent visual (and musical) art in its true form.  The DVD version even includes applications to the League sent in by fans of the film.  This is when you know you’re onto something special.

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (2008); written by Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, Zack Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen; directed by Joss Whedon; starring Neil Patrick Harris, Felicia Day and Nathan Fillion.