Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Sundance ’19: Little Monsters

Miss Caroline makes a compelling case for merit pay for teachers. The beloved Australian grade school Miss Brodie will do whatever it takes to keep her students safe during a zombie apocalypse. She will pretty much have to do it single-handedly too. The aging rocker uncle of one of her kids came along on their field trip as a chaperone, but obviously he will not be much help in Abe Forsythe’s Little Monsters, which screens during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

After a nasty breakup, dumb old Dave is forced to couch surf with his long-suffering sister and Felix, his innocent-as-the-day-is-long nephew. He is a hopeless loser, but he tries to clean up his act a little after meeting Felix’s teacher, Miss Caroline. Suddenly, he volunteers to help escort the children on an excursion to a mini-golf petting zoo. Ordinarily, he would be the worst possible dude for the job, but all bets are off when the zombies attack.

Of course, it is Miss Caroline who is killing zombies like Milla Jovovich in Resident Evil. It will take Dave time to raise to the occasion, but he is still more useful to have around than Teddy McGiggle, a lewd, crude kiddie TV show host. Regardless, Miss Caroline (and eventually Dave) will do their best to convince the kids it is all just a game, sort of like a gory, zombie version of Life is Beautiful.

Little Monsters is far less cloying and manipulative than the Roberto Benigni film, because how could it not be, but it is still surprisingly sweet. Lupita Nyong’o and Alexander England develop an appealing rapport as Miss Caroline and Doofus Dave. Nyong’o is particularly charming as the veritable zombie-killing Mary Poppins-like figure. Josh Gad seemed to challenge himself to see how degenerate and debauched he could make McGiggle—and the results are impressive.

Forsythe also slyly stages a number of adorably loopy songs that will leave jaded genre fans with big goofy smiles, in spite of themselves. The only real annoyance in Little Monsters is the negative portrayal of the U.S. military. Seriously, if a zombie apocalypse ever broke out, Forsythe would be praying for the U.S. Marines to come riding in.

It really is remarkable how bloody and genial Little Monsters is, all at the same time. It turns out, it is quite a nice blend of vibes. Highly recommended for zombie fans, Little Monsters screens again today (1/29), Wednesday (1/30), and Thursday (1/31) in Park City and Saturday (2/2) in Salt Lake, as part of this year’s Sundance Film Festival.