Expectations are a funny thing. Take Jeff Baena's [Life After Beth](movie:791204), for example. I really have very little use for modern zombie films, and with the exception of Shaun of the Dead, have grown utterly bored of them. However, I am a huge fan of Aubrey Plaza. I love her on [Parks and Recreation](series:214218), and have thoroughly enjoyed her in almost every movie I've seen her in. So despite my distaste for zombie films, I was actually looking forward to Life After Beth. But friends... I can honestly say that I can't remember the last time I watched a "comedy" and made this face the entire time:
The plot: Immediately after Beth breaks up with her boyfriend Zach, she's bitten by a snake and dies. And then she comes back to life: resurrected like Jesus, according to her parents. Zach is so stoked that Beth is back and doesn't remember breaking up with him that he doesn't care why she's back, just that he gets to bone her again. Then a mini-zombie apocalypse happens.
The main qualities of the zombies in Life After Beth, besides eating flesh, is that they are utterly miserable and mean-spirited people who are aroused by smooth jazz. Why? No idea. None of this is explained. But Beth spends the majority of her tenure as a zombie calling Zach names such as "gay" and "retarded" and accusing him of being a "bitch" when he won't have sex with her. I honestly don't know if Baena was trying to make some sort of point about relationships through Beth's behavior, but frankly, I didn't care. Her character was so annoyingly unpleasant that I couldn't wait for the movie to end.
It doesn't help that Dane DeHaan was not meant for a role as a lead in a romantic comedy playing a scattered nebbish. He just comes off as shrieking and whiney, which makes him a less than appealing hero. Additionally, Anna Kendrick is brought in and totally wasted as the beige beating-heart alternative to Beth. She has two scenes, both of which are totally unnecessary to Life After Beth other than to say, "LOOK! WE HAS OSCAR NOMINEE!"
Given such a strong, exuberant cast (John C. Reilly, Cheryl Hines, Matthew Gray Gubler, and Molly Shannon, overly channeling her manic SNL characters), everything about Life After Beth falls totally flat. As a romantic film, there is nothing romantic about it, and as a comedy, I didn't laugh once. As a zombie movie, the effects are good, but we are told next to nothing about the cause of the outbreak except that it may be related to Haitian voodoo? For someone with so much experience writing scripts, Baena totally falters in writing a solid screenplay as well.
I genuinely wish I could recommend [Life After Beth](movie:791204)... but I can't. I just can't. And that breaks my heart.
Rating: 1 Waste of Aubrey Plaza out of 5
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