Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (2008)
By: Paul Ryan on August 23, 2009  | 
Mutant Enemy (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Japanese Subtitles. 42 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, Felecia Day, Simon Helberg
Screenplay: Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon, Joss Whedon, Zack Whedon
Country: USA
External Links
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The tale of a nice guy who loves a nice girl that happens be dating a total douche is an age-old staple of romantic comedies, bad teen films and an infinite number of pop tunes. But what if the douchebag was a powerful superhero, and the nice guy is also a budding supervillain? And what if these characters expressed their innermost emotions in song? Well that's exactly what Buffy/Angel/Firefly/Dollhouse übermensch Joss Whedon has come up with in the web series Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.

Billy (Neil Patrick Harris) is an ambitious would-be evil genius who desperately wants to be admitted to the supervillian union, The Evil League of Evil. Under the name Dr Horrible, he creates a variety of high-tech gizmos to carry out all manner of heists. Whether it's because he's really a nice guy at heart, or possibly his tendency to video-blog about his schemes, Billy is constantly foiled (not to mention, repeatedly beaten up) by the heroic Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion). But Billy's real interest lies in the sweet young woman he keeps running into at the Laundromat, Penny (Felicia Day). Penny is kindhearted, gentle, and volunteers at the local soup kitchen. So it figures that during one of his attempted robberies, Billy accidentally causes Penny to be rescued (at least that's how it looks) by Captain Hammer, resulting in her falling instantly for the vain, obnoxious superhero. Now Billy is stuck with the conflicting tasks of winning the girl of his dreams, defeating the hugely popular hero and getting into the Evil League of Evil. Lucky that he has the outlet of showtunes, or he might just totally crack up…

Winner of this year's Hugo award for best short-form dramatic presentation, (beating out competition from Doctor Who, Lost and Battlestar Galactica) Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is tremendously good fun. While elements of the setup will be overly familiar to viewers of the great animated series The Venture Bros (especially the ELE, which is very similar to Venture's Guild of Calamitous Intent, complete with evil David Bowie), Whedon again demonstrates his skill for subverting and reworking genre conventions. Very much a labour-of-love, this project was self-financed by Whedon during the 2007-8 Writers Guild of America strike, and while it's all very low-budget, the wit and energy levels are so strong that you'll barely notice. The three leads are pitch-perfect. Day is simply adorable as the kindly Penny; Fillion is hilariously smug, while Harris is sympathetic, endearing and very funny as the title character. As for the songs themselves, even you if don't like musicals (and I for one generally don't), you'll likely find yourself getting into the myriad of very funny tunes on offer. All this said, the resolution will surprise, and even possibly disappoint some viewers, but it's still very much in keeping with Whedon's usual curve-ball approach.

Originally released online in three 14-minute installments, the episodes have been compiled into a single 42-minute feature edit, though the three-act structure of the webisodes has been retained. While some might balk at buying the DVD of a film that runs a mere 42-minutes, the Mutant Enemy crew have thrown in a package of bonus material – with one especially inspired feature – that makes this an absolute must-have for Whedon fans.
It looks a little dark in places, but this is an otherwise good video transfer, with no faults or artifacts, and is 16x9 enhanced.
The 5.1 audio is very good, especially for such a low-budget endeavour. Dialogue is consistently clear, while the all-important songs come through with depth and clarity.
Extra Features
Cast and Crew Commentary – Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, Felecia Day, Joss, Jed and Zack Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen: With seven participants discussing a 42-minute piece, you can be assured that this is a very lively commentary track. Anecdotes fly think and fast, as do a lot of jokes and laughter, but if you want an audio commentary with a little something different, then you should select…

Commentary! The Musical! : The jewel in the wonderflonium crown, this is a brilliantly clever piss-take on the usual audio commentary track. Featuring the same participants as above, along with countless supporting cast members, this manages to pack in the factoids and trivia in showtune form. Highlights are Nathan Fillion's "I'm Better Than Neil", Maurissa Tancharoen's industry lament "Nobody's Asian in the Movies", a rap (with auto tune backing vocals) from Zack Whedon, and Neil Patrick Harris's showy solo number. Truly inspired, and in some ways even better than the feature itself.

The Making of Doctor Horrible (20.41m): Broken into three sections ("The Movie", "The Music", "What Just Happened?"), this shows how the whole project came together, which writer contributed what, things that didn't quite work, and so on. The last section, detailing the web-based nature of the show and the fan response is especially fascinating.

Evil League of Evil Application Videos (30.47m): Giving a shout-out to the fans, this section compiles a number of fan-created audition videos from other wannabe villains, each attempting to gain membership in the Evil League of Evil. Among this reviewer's personal favourites are pirate-hatted Mr Terrible (versed in biology, chemistry, psychology, astrology, zoology and even scientology); rapping Swedish hand-puppet preacher The Reverend; overgrown brat L'Enfant Terrible; circumcision-happy Jewish villain Tur-Mohel and his Minyan (watch out, Washington Monument!), and jazz-hands freak Miss Broadway Dork. These are followed by a long, long, loooooooooooong list of "Dishonorable Mentions". Given that these are all fan-made, the quality of the clips can be a variable, but they're all clever and quite funny.

Wiccan Subtitles: An odd – to state the obvious - inclusion, this can be selected from the subtitle menu, but all you get is a little statement about a minute in, along with a numerical code. I could explain what this means, but I suspect I'd be staring down the business end of a freeze ray if I did. You'll just have to work it out (or moreover, Google it) for yourselves!

Teaser Trailer: A 55-second taster of the web series, which is amusingly cheesy, though marred by overly pixilated video.

Easter Eggs: There a number of little hidden goodies scattered in the digital nooks and crannies of this DVD. Am I going to tell you what they are or how to find them? Do I look like I want to forfeit my Evil League of Evil membership? Do I??? Well???
The Verdict
Short, sweet and witty, Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is Joss Whedon at his most whimsical and uninhibited. The cast is terrific and the songs will please even most ardent non-fan of musicals. The disc itself - produced entirely in-house by Mutant Enemy - is simply fantastic, with more extras than any other 42-minute movie out there.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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