New from A Reel of One’s Own by Andrea Thompson: Sundance Film Festival 2019: Little Monsters

By Andrea Thompson

The zombie comedy “Little Monsters” is a zomedy for the ages. Much like “Shaun of the Dead,” it’s about a slacker reeling from a break-up who is forced to change his ways and reevaluate his life after a zombie outbreak. That’s pretty much where the similarities end though, even if “Little Monsters” has enough fast-paced, absolutely gut-busting humor that would make Edgar Wright proud.

There’s also more star power, if only for the fact that many of the stars of “Shaun of the Dead” found Hollywood success after the movie became a smash hit. Sure, Alexander England, who plays the aforementioned slacker and failed musician Dave, may be an unknown, but there’s also Lupita Nyong’o as kindergarten teacher Miss Caroline, and Josh Gad as a children’s entertainer Teddy McGiggle (shudder), who naturally soon reveals himself to be the kind of twisted personality personality that only the unrelenting brightness of kids’ entertainment can unleash upon the world.

Dave has the kind of healthy relationship with his ex that leaves them screaming at each other, whether in private, public, or with their very uncomfortable friends. They soon part ways, and Dave moves back in with his sister and her five-year-old son Felix (Diesel La Torraca), who quickly bonds with his Uncle Dave. And why not, since his uncle has ultra violent video games, and doesn’t censor his language or life choices around his nephew? Felix doesn’t have to put in much effort to charm, and writer-director Abe Forsythe could’ve just let Felix be another adorable little kid. Only he adds a little more character, such as his love of dressing up like Darth Vader, and the allergies that add an extra layer of vulnerability (as if he needed it).

Dave also isn’t too depressed over his ex-girlfriend to not be captivated by Felix’s teacher Miss Caroline, so much that he finds himself volunteering to help chaperone Felix’s class trip to the petting zoo. The problem is, it’s right next to a U.S. military base, which is unfortunately experiencing a zombie outbreak. Miss Caroline rises to the occasion, determined not only to preserve the kids’ safety, but their innocence in the midst of the violence. Why is this happening? One, as this Australian film knows, it’s always the U.S. Two…who cares?

As their situation becomes more desperate, the film’s saving grace becomes its humor, which shines in its quieter moments as well as the most dangerous ones. But what “Little Monsters” really reveals itself to be is a tribute to the dedicated teachers who keep kids safe, albeit under less extreme circumstances. The only false note is how hyper-competent Miss Caroline is, and how she becomes the reward for Dave’s transformation, while much of his prior behavior is excused. At least “Little Monsters” manages to make his transformation believable, with an ending that’s too damn adorable to resist.

Grade: A-

from A Reel Of One’s Own

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