Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015) **1/2
D: Christopher Landon
C: Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan, Sarah Dumont, David Koechner, Cloris Leachman, Halston Sage, Lukas Gage, Niki Koss, Hiram A. Murray, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Blake Anderson, Drew Droege, Elle Evans
Plot Synopsis: Three scouts, on the eve of their last camp-out, discover the true meaning of friendship when they attempt to save their town from a zombie outbreak.
Review: The opening scene of a Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse represents what's both right & wrong with the film from an overall prospective. In it, we see a janitor lip syncing to an Iggy Azalea song. It's a genuinely funny moment that opens up things with energy & momentum. From there, the janitor dances up against a glass window, exposing his nipples, making sexual faces while someone walks past the window oblivious to what's happening. All of this comes across as forced, as though the people behind this are trying to show us how funny they can be. Comedy comes from observations related to life. People lip sync & dance when they think no one is around, but I doubt many of them press their nipples against mirrors.
From there, we get to a horror like scenario involving the janitor having a run-in with a zombie. Ominous music plays. There's gore. Even though the presentation of zombie and the look of this scene from the color palates, to the sets & set decoration are on the serious side, they never fully commit to taking the scene seriously. Comical elements are present, but the comedy & horror co-exist uneasily with one another. As a result, the right note is never found.
That pretty much sums up things. There's some truly wonderful comedic elements, especially when they deal with the things that are on the more nostalgic side. Then there's comedy bits that either fall flat, that feel unwarranted or out of place. As for the horror, it's neither here nor there. The characters run around. The zombies run around, but there's never a moment that comes across as genuinely suspenseful or terribly scary. Horror is something that has to be earned, that has to be built up over time. Scouts Guide rushes into its horror elements, instead of letting them to permeate or to develop over time.
The story, what there is of it, involves three scouts & a waitress at a strip club who discover that they're the last line of defense in clearing out their small town, during a zombie outbreak, before the military bombs the place. It's not so much a plot, but a device to use unlikely characters, in an unlikely scenario engaging in unlikely situations. The premise is intentionally simple, because more or less, it's meant to be a springboard for a group of talented individuals to, ....well, show their talent!
With that said, let's talk about the talent. The script is uneven, but it has moments. The direction is choppy, but it keeps things moving along. The costuming work is a standout. The scout uniforms have a whimsical quality. When our scout heroes modify their uniforms to take on the zombies, the uniforms hilariously capture the personalities of the main characters.
On the acting front, Logan Miller is an able comedic sidekick, but not particularly distinguished either. Sarah Dumont conveys strength & power without losing semblance of being an actual human or looking like she's been on steroids, a cliche too often employed when it comes to tough female protagonists. Tye Sheridan, who was a breath of fresh air in films like Tree of Life & Mud, is featured in what is his most commercially accessible role, to date (prior to joining the X-Men franchise). He grounds the proceedings in reality, despite all the absurd things going on around him. Sheridan has that knock out punch of being cute, appealing, approachable and a capable leader, but after starring in one of the best films of all time (Tree of Life), this feels like a step down.
A Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is a patchwork. It's uneven and all over the place. Some of it works. Some of it doesn't, but what does work, scores a home run. [R] 93 minutes.
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