Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

4/4

Starring: Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan, Sarah Dumont, Halston Sage, David Koechner, Patrick Schwarzenegger

Rated R for Zombie Violence and Gore, Sexual Material, Graphic Nudity and Language Throughout

Pardon my language, but there's no other way to put it: this movie kicks ass!  It has everything a person could want in a zombie movie and more.  "Scouts Guide to the Apocalypse" is scary, funny, subversive, gory and raunchy as hell (the film contains the mother of all dick jokes).  It also has one thing that no other zombie movie has even tried to have: a heart.  I cared about the characters, who are refreshingly real.  Paramount has been doing surprisingly little to market this movie.  It's a shame, because this is a gem of a movie.  So you can bet I'm going to do all I can to help.

The three heroes are Ben (Sheridan), a normal teenager, and his two best friends, the sex-obsessed Carter (Miller) and the chubby Augie (Morgan).  They're scouts, which means that everyone considers them to be dorks.  That means that they have no chance of getting girlfriends, so they want to drop out, but can't bear to tell Augie, since he loves it.  Luck comes their way when Carter's popular sister Kendall (Sage) invites Ben and Carter to the senior party.  Unfortunately for them, it's the night of the camp out where Augie is getting an esteemed badge from Scout Master Rogers (Koechner).  Carter suggests that after Augie and Scott Master Rogers are asleep, they go to the party and be back before they wake up.  Naturally, Augie finds out and is crushed.  Just when things couldn't get any worse, the town comes under the spell of zombie fever.

"Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse" takes a little while to get going (a little too long...a minute or two shaved off would have helped the pacing).  But there's a reason for it: director Christopher Landon wants us to care about the characters.  And we do.  It helps that they're well-written and acted.  It doesn't take long for them to escape the stereotypes that one might think they are and the trio has a lot of chemistry together.  Also worth mentioning is Sarah Dumont, who plays Denise, the school's sex bomb-turned-cocktail waitress at a strip club.  After saving them from a zombie attack, she helps them realize that they're friendship is more important than chasing popularity or getting girls.  This all feels genuine because the actors play it as such.  If this sounds like an 80's teen movie, that's because it feels like one.

That's not to say that there's no humor or action.  Quite the opposite.  There's plentiful violence and gobs of gore.  It's well staged and occasionally even scary.  The film packs in big laughs, too.  Some of the humor is so gross that it would make Judd Apatow blush, such as giving a zombie CPR (don't ask).  And that's just the beginning.  We also see zombies on trampolines, zombies on roller skates, and even a zombie on a Rascal.  What's really special is that the movie doesn't go for obvious jokes.  The filmmakers really worked hard at coming up with new material, which is nice since zombie movies have already descended into self-parody like in "Zombieland."  That hard work pays off, especially because it involves characters we like and understand.

"Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse" is the whole package: a raunchy sex comedy, zombie gorefest and coming of age movie wrapped into one 93 minute package.  Stanley Kaufman of "The New Republic" once said that it's easier to make good drama than good entertainment, and I believe it.  Just look at all the wannabes gathering dust.  But when a movie manages to combine so many elements and make you care, it's worth sitting up and taking notice.  This is definitely one of the year's best, and funniest, films.

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