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Little Monsters (Sundance Review)

Little Monsters (Sundance Review)
7 10

PLOT: Dave (Alexander England), a boorish man-child, tries to impress his nephew’s gorgeous teacher, Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o) by helping her chaperone a petting zoo field trip which, to his eventual dismay, turns out to be next door to a military testing facility in the midst of a zombie outbreak.

?REVIEW: Someone in Park City told me that LITTLE MONSTERS is kinda like BILLY MADISON crossed with SHAUN OF THE DEAD, and to me, that’s an apt way of describing this silly but ultimately charming comedy-horror flick, with a major emphasis on the former. Heck, were it not for all the f-bombs, you could have dubbed this “baby’s first zombie flick” as despite the naughty language it’s ultimately quite family friendly. Now that it’s been acquired by Neon and Hulu, this is the perfect entry-level R-rated horror flick for your kids, the one you can test the waters with.

Alexander England plays your more-or-less stock manchild, being a wannabe rock star who’s kicked to the curb by his girlfriend and seems stuck in a state of permanent adolescence. He’s crashing with his older sister, who’s raising an adorable moppet, Felix (Diesel La Torraca), who he’d have no interest in were it not for his hot teacher, played by the luminous Lupita Nyong’o.

The movie kicks into high gear once the zombies escape and Nyong’o’s Miss Caroline leaps into zombie killer mode. Nyong’o is quite charming in a change-of-pace role, but she also grounds the character with a real sense of purpose. She knows she’s responsible for the kids and is hellbent on keeping them all alive, while, additionally, looking out for their mental well-being by pretending it’s all a game. We’ve never really seen Nyong’o so laid-back and loose in a film, with her busting out the ukulele to sing Taylor Swift songs while picking off zombies with a shovel, and it further cements her range. Someone should cast her in a full-on rom-com, she’d ace it.

That said, English is pretty much the lead here, as he has to step up and become a better uncle once the outbreak starts, and he makes the transition work, while also possessing enough chemistry with Nyong’o that you buy the potential romance between the two. Meanwhile, Josh Gad ramps things up to eleven as the children’s show host that’s stuck with them and turns out to be an even bigger liability to the group than the zombies. Gad’s having fun, but he’s also chewing scenery with a slapstick, bug-eyed performance that feels like something out of an Abbott and Costello movie, and if anything will divide people it’ll be this. Some will think he’s absolutely hilarious, others will hope he gets turned into a zombie's dinner. I was somewhere in-between.

All in all though, this is a pretty charming little zombie comedy and while I’m not sure a theatrical run is the best bet for it, it’ll for sure be a must-watch once it hits Hulu, with it being warm-hearted enough to connect with a broad audience. It’s not terribly original but it’s well-done and quite charming.

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