Movie Review: ‘Little Monsters’ provides a few chuckles, but unfortunately not much more
Director: Abe Forsythe
Writers: Abe Forsythe
Stars: Lupita Nyong’o, Josh Gad, Alexander England
Synopsis: A washed-up musician teams up with a teacher and a kids show personality to protect young children from a sudden outbreak of zombies.
In the last few years, Lupita Nyong’o has been one of the most dynamic actors of our generation. Switching easily from a glorified cameo in the recent Star Wars trilogy to her enjoyable presence in Marvel’s huge Black Panther, she can work wonderfully in the background of a great cast or help deliver some new exposition for one of the biggest film series of all time. But her shining moments have been in intense performances that could threaten self-seriousness and melodramatic tendencies. Luckily with her Oscar-winning part in 12 Years a Slave and her flawless double role in Us, she’s proven to be more than capable of anything thrown her way. It makes sense that she would sign onto a movie like Little Monsters, a seemingly lighthearted zom-com that would help her flesh out her more comedic abilities. Little Monsters waits quite a bit before showing off it’s strongest tool, but Lupita’s bright and shining performance is the glue of a film that’s never less than funny, but never more than chuckle worthy.
For some reason, writer and director Abe Forsythe decided that the best choice for a Lupita Nyong’o vehicle is for her to be a side character to a generic tale of Arrested development: meet Dave (Alexander English), a rock n’ roll star. Well, an ex-member of a mediocre hard rock group, whose girlfriend just broke up with him. After an embarrassing stunt where he uses his nephew Max in an attempt to propose to his ex-girlfriend, he decides to start spending time with the kid and see where that brings him. It brings him to a new crush when he meets Miss Caroline (Nyong’o), a ukelele wielding, Hanson-obsessed, kindergarten teacher. Dave decides to figure out how to make a move while chaperoning a field trip to a farm, but a nearby U.S. testing facility has a different idea in mind. As zombies make their way towards the farm, Miss Caroline distracts the kids with the help of Dave.
And yet, the juxtaposition of cute kids, Miss Caroline’s incessant cheerfulness, and the occasional musical number against the darker aspects doesn’t quite work. From the unexpected gore to a character who exists to yell curse words at the kids, Forsythe as a director doesn’t quite know how to handle the tonal balance here which leads to some plainly unfunny parts. Case in point: Josh Gad’s Teddy McGigggles, an alcoholic, egotistical, sex addicted children’s show star. His character is deeply unpleasant, and his screen time is way too high for a character that leaves without a trace. Forsythe handles the zombie carnage with a deft touch, but he never seems to have much in the way of visual gags or set pieces, leaving you waiting until Nyong’o’s Miss Caroline starts another song. By the time the film resolves with a twee touch, you’re stuck wishing you had watched Shaun of the Dead.
Overall Grade: B-
Hear our podcast review on Extra Film: