Sunday 20 October 2019

LITTLE MONSTERS - London Film Festival review

Dave (Alexander England) is a failed musical and man-child struggling to deal with the end of his relationship and forced to move in with his sister and her young son, Felix. Helping out to earn his keep, when Dave takes Felix to school he becomes enamoured with his teacher, Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong'o), offering to help out on the school trip to a local farm. Unfortunately, this wildlife park is situated next to an American army research base, and a zombie virus is infecting the soldiers. Teaming up with Miss Caroline to protect the children, they face off against an ever-growing zombie horde and the tantrums of a diva-ish children's TV personality, Teddy McGiggle (Josh Gad).

Little Monsters sets out its stall early, with Alexander England's Dave dressing his nephew Felix (Diesel La Torraca) as Darth Vader in an attempt to woo back his ex by proposing to her. But when they walk in on her having sex with another man, Dave doesn't even consider how inappropriate the situation is for a young boy to be in, leaving Felix standing there for an extraordinary long time in front of two naked people. It's this kind of joyously uncomfortable situation the film thrives on, putting children in front of adults struggling to deal with grown up problems, using foul language to express themselves.

The action begins proper when Dave arrives at Pleasant Valley Farm for what should be an enjoyable, educational day out with his nephew and his classmates, but what Dave hopes will be a chance for him to woo the caring Miss Caroline by showing her how great he is with the kids. Except he isn't. Also competing for Miss Caroline's affection is Josh Gad's Teddy McGiggles; a man dressed in a green polka dot suit with a sock puppet for a sidekick, who it's clear is using his fame and popularity with the kids to bed as many mothers as possible. Gad is having an absolute ball playing against his family friendly persona, and when the shit hits the fan and his life is under threat, there's an undeniable joy in seeing the voice of Olaf from Frozen shout obscenities in front of little children. Juvenile? Maybe. Fucking funny? Yes.

England, who resembles a Chris Hemsworth stunt double in the vein of Ben Stiller's Tom Crooze, is  a funny, likeable lead, despite his character's arrested development rendering him somewhat of a doofus. Still, the indisputable shining star of the film is Lupita Nyong'o, as a positive bundle of energy forced to deal with the idiotic man-children around her whilst caring for her brood of school children, and that's before the zombie outbreak occurs. When the zombies do attack, she's forced to think on her feet, leading a conga line through a field of zombies to help up in what best represents a safe house for them, the nearby souvenir shop.

Although the basic survival set up may be nothing new with the film owing a clear debt to everything from Return of the Living Dead to Shaun of the Dead, it's the likeable cast and uniquely Australian comic sensibility that sets it apart. One of the comic highlights of the London Film Festival, Little Monsters is a gory, delightfully funny and surprisingly sweet zombie film with great turns from Gad, England and Nyong'o. Seek it out when it hits cinemas in a few weeks time, as this might be your new favourite zombie comedy.


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