Zom-Com Done Wrong
Despite the glut of zombie-related entertainment these days, a clever twist on dealing with the undead is always welcome, such as 2013’s Warm Bodies. Unfortunately, the only thing interesting about the latest, Life After Beth, is its title.
The film does have promise at the start. We join the story soon after the death of Beth (Aubrey Plaza), as her boyfriend Zach (Dane DeHaan) and her parents (John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon) struggle to come to terms with her being gone.
There are a number of comedic possibilities with a story such as this, but writer/director Jeff Baena has difficulty making any of them connect.
When Beth’s parents start being distant, Zach becomes suspicious and soon discovers something impossible: Beth has come back from the dead. However, her behavior is, shall we say, a little erratic, and even though Zach loves having her back, he finds out that having a zombie for a girlfriend has more than its fair share of challenges.
There are a number of comedic possibilities with a story such as this, but writer/director Jeff Baena has difficulty making any of them connect. Beth’s confusion over why Zach and her parents are treating her differently now is more sad than anything else, and any quirks that come along with her being undead seem random and ho-hum.
Instead of being satisfied with telling the story of Beth’s rising from the dead, Baena chooses to portray it as an epidemic, with multiple dead people making reappearances. Sometimes this is good for a chuckle, but most of the time all it elicits is a shrug. Any time devoted to other undead takes away from what’s supposed to be the point of the film, which is probably the biggest reason the film doesn’t succeed.
Plaza’s usual monotone shtick would seem to work well for playing a zombie, but the deadly dull script keeps her from reaching her potential. DeHaan makes the most of his role, but he too is held back by the story.
It’s fun to see Paul Reiser and Cheryl Hines as Zach’s parents, even if their roles are not all that crucial. And why Anna Kendrick, who plays a ditzy love interest for Zach late in the movie, chose to take this dud of a supporting part is beyond me.
Zombies may still be all the rage in Hollywood, but if films like Life After Beth are the best they can offer, the undead are better left buried.
Life After Beth opens exclusively at the Texas Theatre on September 5.