Friday, October 30, 2015

Review: Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015)

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015)

Rated R for zombie violence and gore, sexual material, graphic nudity, and language throughout

Score: 2 out of 5

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is one of those movies where I don't really need to lay out a detailed plot description. It's all right there in the title and in the poster above: Boy Scouts vs. zombies, with a healthy dose of teen sex comedy thrown in. It's inspired more by Superbad and American Pie than Shaun of the Dead, with the three Scouts putting their amateur woodcraft skills to good use as they seek to survive a zombie outbreak, while overcoming their differences and realizing that, as much as it's made them outcasts in high school, scouting has bonded them and enriched their lives -- all while one of their members is on a desperate quest to get himself and his buddies laid. It's more about lowbrow sex gags and gory "money shots" than real scares or depth, and the hit-to-miss ratio on the comedy wasn't very well-skewed... but to be honest, for what it was, I kind of enjoyed it. It was worth a ticket at the cheap theater across town, and I honestly think Paramount would've had more success if they'd just released this straight to VOD instead of giving it a theatrical release, because this was really more of a "midnight movie" than anything. It's perfectly serviceable, entertaining pablum, a film that may well become something of a guilty pleasure or even a cult classic in the years to come, but if you go in expecting anything more, you're as dumb as this movie is.

The likable leads are easily the best thing this film has going for it. Tye Sheridan was great as the protagonist Ben, a kid who's having second thoughts about staying with the Scouts and is thinking about quitting so that he can become a "normal" teenager. He makes you root for him to succeed, as does Joey Morgan as Augie, the only member of the trio who's really all that enthusiastic about scouting. He's eager to earn his Falcon Badge, the film's version of becoming an Eagle Scout (obviously, the real-life Boy Scouts of America didn't sign off on this film), and for all his goofiness, he's genuinely well-meaning and no less competent than those around him. The only one of the lead trio I didn't like was Carter. It was through no fault of his actor, Logan Miller, who did a good job on his own -- the character was simply written as too much of a jerk, a sex-obsessed adolescent horndog who never really evolves beyond that over the course of the film. As for the supporting cast, it's a mixed bag. Sarah Dumont, who plays the badass cocktail waitress Denise, has little to do beyond look sexy in a tight tank top and Daisy Dukes, but she does that well, even if she disappears for a long stretch as the film struggles to find reason to keep her around. David Koechner and Cloris Leachman both got short shrift as, respectively, the scoutmaster and Carter's crazy cat lady neighbor; I wish they got a little more screen time before they were turned into mindless zombies, because they were pretty entertaining in their short scenes as humans. (Though Leachman, even as a zombie, does get a great, disgusting gag that proudly flies straight over every line in the book.)

The mixed-bag quality of the film also applies to the scares, which are unfortunately more "miss" than "hit". While the film tries to be scary and tense on occasion, there's never any doubt that the four main characters -- Ben, Carter, Augie, and Denise -- are going to make it out alive. (No matter how much I was hoping for Carter to bite it.) Nor is there any doubt that, from the moment it's mentioned that there's a big senior class party that Carter's trying to sneak into, that party is gonna be the focus of the grand finale -- and that Kendal, Carter's sister and Ben's love interest (and an otherwise completely paper-thin character who contributes nothing to the film), is gonna have to be rescued from there (and that she's gonna live and get together with Ben). Likewise, when we see early on that Augie is having trouble using a flint to start a campfire, anyone with half a brain can tell that the climax is gonna involve him having to set something on fire using, you guessed it, a flint. The sheer predictability of the events meant that I was only afraid once for any of the characters, and the subpar zombie attack/fight scenes do little to help in that regard.

The humor is more tolerable, on account of this film aiming low and usually hitting the target. This is a film that revolves around dumb sex jokes, gross-outs, zombie strippers, zombie heads getting popped, the main characters getting sprayed with blood, and jokes about cheesy pop songs. Good taste clearly never came up in the discussion when this film was being written, in terms of either the kills or the laughs. While it takes a lot of skill to make this sort of humor truly great, it doesn't take much to just get it working, and I will admit that I got a lot of good chuckles out of this one. Only a small number of big laughs, but this film was never boring.

The Bottom Line:

It's entertaining enough, and there were a few things I liked, but there are much better zombie comedies out there. Save your money and pop in one of those.

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