‘Life After Beth’ Movie Review – No Zombie’s Land
As evidenced by the droves (or perhaps hordes would be a better word) of zombie movies releasing, zombies are one of Hollywood’s latest fads. Like vampires, they’ll likely fade in the coming year. Until then, we have enough releasing to differentiate between the must-sees and the skip-’ems. Jeff Baena’s directorial debut, Life After Beth, doesn’t fit either of these categories which can be taken both as a compliment or not. For me, it is a bit of a letdown given the talent and interesting premise.
The movie starts with Beth’s (Aubrey Plaza) death. She left behind a family (John C. Reilly, Cheryl Hines) and her boyfriend Zach (Dane DeHaan). After a day or two of sulking, the unthinkable happens: Beth reappears…alive. Her parents think it’s a miracle (ala Jesus’ resurrection) while Zach struggles with how much Beth has changed.
She’s changed because her resurrection was actually a reanimation, meaning she is a zombie that slowly deteriorates from a beautiful woman to a flesh-eating monster.
As I alluded to at the beginning, the premise seems different enough to differentiate between other zombie films. It also has the potential to delve into some more serious stuff, like love and love lost. In some ways, Life After Beth is comparable to the surprisingly successful Warm Bodies from last year.
Baena, who also wrote the film, made a conscious decision to make the movie a little more lighthearted (again, like Warm Bodies). This is an okay decision, too, given Plaza’s history in comedy. Given her character, though, Plaza doesn’t have as much to do as her counterparts.
Then, the tone keeps the movie from finding a deeper connection with the audience. When you look back on the film, it’s hard to find a spot where the movie was whole-heartedly funny. Instead, Life After Beth gets stuck in no man’s land from the beginning and never does find its way back out.
I will admit the final scene between the two stars resonates a bit more than the rest of the film, but it’s simply a little too late to salvage the picture as a whole.
Not all is lost, though, as the cast does about everything it can to make the film memorable (even if it didn’t ultimately work). I’ve mentioned Plaza’s past, but she’s not alone as DeHaan has proven to be one of Hollywood’s fastest rising stars. Also, Anna Kendrick, Matthew Gray Gubler (CBS’s Criminal Minds), and even Plaza’s Parks and Recreation co-star Jim O’Heir make great additions to the cast.
Not all zombie films have to be completely serious. In fact, finding a lighter approach to the heavy genre has a lot of potential (especially with the right cast). Jeff Baena’s Life After Beth just isn’t the best example of this idea. It falls into a rut at the exact moment it should’ve done something (anything) to stand out. In the end, the picture is more forgettable than not despite everything that should work on paper.
Life After Beth is available through Video On Demand or in limited theaters starting tomorrow.
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