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  Little Monsters Save The Children (With A Ukulele)
Year: 2019
Director: Abe Forsythe
Stars: Lupita Nyong'o, Alexander England, Josh Gad, Kat Stewart, Diesel La Torraca, Nadia Townsend, Marshall Napier, Glenn Hazeldine, Ava Caryofyllis, Charlie Whitley, Mason Mansour, Kim Doan, Wolfgang Gledhill, Caliah Pinones, Jack Schuback
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: Dave (Alexander England) is a slacker in all areas of life except for one: arguing with his girlfriend, Sara (Nadia Townsend). This has become their primary mode of conversing, yelling at each other in every location imaginable, whether out with friends or at the supermarket, and it's clear the relationship is at breaking point. So it is, after acknowledging that Sara wants kids and Dave is too much of a manbaby to ever be a father, he stomps out with his electric guitar he still harbours dreams of using in his dubious ambition to be a rock star and is forced to move in with his sister, Tess (Kat Stewart), and her five-year-old son Felix (Diesel La Torraca), who in Dave's cluelessness about respectable behaviour he proves to be a bad influence on. But then there's Felix's teacher...

Doesn't sound like the start of a zombie movie, does it? And indeed, for the first twenty minutes or so Little Monsters was a rude and crude loser comedy, where we were invited to find the activities of the useless Dave (keenly played by England) amusing, which by all rights would be extremely difficult given he was such an awful person. Yet in writer and director Abe Forsythe's screenplay there was an acknowledgement that Dave was not someone to look up to, we were supposed to be laughing at him rather than with him, and his whingeing, entitled personality made him a figure of ridicule rather than the hero of the narrative. This was also down to someone else being the hero.

Or rather, the heroine, for step forward the top-billed Lupita Nyong'o as Felix's upbeat, ukulele-strumming tutor Miss Caroline (but call her Audrey) who was one of the most genuinely lovely characters you would ever see in a horror movie, never mind a zombie movie. What made her even better was that she was no kiddie-friendly caricature, endlessly sunny in demeanour no matter how bad things get: that was how she presented her role to her pupils, but as this went on and the zombie outbreak grew worse, Forsythe deepened her character in a manner that was not contrived, but entirely believable and endearing, all thanks to the star's way with convincing us of her decency.

This contrasted with Dave's complete lack of decency, which included dressing his nephew up as Darth Vader to deliver a marriage proposal to Sara, only for them to barge in on her in flagrante delicto with her work colleague. Dave is such a terrible idiot that he quickly turned into a source of great hilarity, but Miss Caroline matched him for entertainment value, and thanks to Nyong'o, surpassed him in many scenes. Little Monsters was not really the sort of film that garners awards, but if you responded to its laughs and unexpected sweetness, mixed with the enthusiastic gore effects, you would be well aware this was a hell of a lot better than the sort of film that often did. As for the plot, it eventually settled into a riff on George A. Romero's classic Night of the Living Dead, another effort that didn't get awards on its release.

Naturally, as a zom-com there were going to be comparisons to Shaun of the Dead, but this may have been in its footsteps, yet managed to match it in one area that was the magic ingredient many imitators had failed to understand: likeability. Just as we connected with Shaun's confusion and resourcefulness in the face of disaster, we respond to Miss Caroline's determination to save her kids as they are trapped in a petting zoo with the only other adults around the hopeless Dave and the entirely self-centred children's entertainer Teddy McGiggle (sterling work from Josh Gad), whose status as a Method thespian reduced to idol of the toddler set has driven him ridiculously insane. Not only was this an endorsement of a catchy pop tune, with Taylor Swift's Shake It Off in Miss Caroline's repertoire representing the benefits of pop culture when things get bad, it was a plea to look after the children - won't somebody think of the children?! - since taking care of them makes you a far better person, as Dave's redemption illustrates, and Miss Caroline's perceptive and protective nature proves. Altogether, a lot better than it needed to be, a real gem. Music by Piers Burbrook de Vere.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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