October 7, 2019 Little Monsters (Movie Review)
You simply cannot deny the talents of a woman like Lupita Nyong’o. The Academy Award winner stars as a cheery Kindergarten teacher in Little Monsters, a brand new zombie apocalypse Horror-Comedy that arrives to Hulu on Friday, October 11th, 2019.
Things are not going well in the life of Dave Anderson (Alexander England: Gods of Egypt 2016, Alien: Covenant 2017). A washed up Stadium Rock-slash-Death Metal musician who performs on street corners, he’s just ended a long-time relationship and been tossed out on his broke ass. With nowhere else to go, he finds himself warming the sofa at his sister Tess’ (Kat Stewart: Underbelly series, Offspring series) place.
Annoyed with her younger brother’s inability to adult, Tess demands that he pull his weight and assigns him the task of escorting his five-year-old nephew, Felix (Diesel La Torraca: Lambs of God mini-series, Sweet Tooth short 2019), to Kindergarten. Here, Dave encounters the stunning Miss Caroline (Nyong’o: 12 Years a Slave 2013, Black Panther 2018), a glowing ray of sunshine with a ukulele strapped beneath her arm.
Immediately taken with the vivacious teacher, Dave accepts an offer to chaperone a field trip to Pleasant Valley Farm. The surprises don’t stop there: when the group arrive, they discover that celebrity child entertainer Teddy McGiggle (Josh Gad: Frozen 2013, Beauty and the Beast 2017) and his sock puppet pal Frogsie are taping a show at the farm with all the kidlywinks in attendance. Ecstatic and energized to see and do it all, Miss Caroline and her students are hardly prepared for the plot twist to end all plot twists: the zombie apocalypse.
Clocking in at 94 minutes, Little Monsters was written and directed by Abe Forsythe (Laid series, Down Under 2016). It also features the acting talents of Ava Caryofyllis (Hearts and Bones 2019, Dirt Music 2019), Shia Hamby (Misstag short 2014, Where is Damien Stafford? Short 2017), Charlie Whitley (The Celebrity Experience Awards Live TV special 2017, Vocal Star Music Awards TV special 2019), Vivienne Albany, Caliah Pinones, Mason Mansour, Jack Schuback, Kim Doan (The Egg short 2019), Glenn Hazeldine, Ashton Arokiaswamy, Marshall Napier (Babe 1995, The Light Between Oceans 2016), Stephen Peacocke (Hercules 2014, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot 2016), Nadia Townsend (Knowing 2009, Restoration 2016), Gareth Davies, and many, many more.
A Horror-Comedy that utilizes zombies to create one truly disastrous field trip, Little Monsters is an enjoyable ride that, on some very basic levels, is reminiscent of films such as 2004’s Shaun of the Dead. Here, the zombies are more to set the mood than anything, creating a major tension for the motley array of characters. This all leaves Little Monsters sitting somewhere outside of a simple categorization, a film that sees Nyong’o prancing around in a beautiful yellow sundress as she beheads the undead, strumming a ukulele to Taylor Swift, and frequently declaring every childhood educator’s rallying call, “One, two, three—eyes on me!”
In fact, one could make the argument that Little Monsters is largely a vehicle to allow Nyong’o to show her sense of humor and to shine in a completely quirky yet endearing role. She does all of this, though the film does have some amusement to offer as well as some heartwarming, underlying messages about love, responsibility, and music. As already stated, Nyong’o kills it (quite literally) in her role as sweet Miss Caroline, a superhero teacher who fakes her certainty for the sake of her beloved students. With a songbird’s voice and a knack for the ukulele, Nyong’o performs her own tracks throughout, most notably a wonderfully infectious cover of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.”
Her co-stars, England and Gad, play two men that see themselves as polar opposites, but who sadly have a lot more in common than either will ever admit. England’s Dave shirks responsibility in the hopes of achieving Rock-n-Roll stardom, though he obviously has heart and he eventually reaches an epiphany by the film’s end. Credit must also go to England, as well as Gad, for performing their own vocals throughout the soundtrack, and England pairs perfectly with Nyong’o when they eventually find common ground.
Gad’s sex addicted child entertainer McGiggle is intentionally over-the-top and ridiculous, quite obnoxious if you are not a five-year-old fan. For this, he gives the contrasting performance to his much-loved role as Frozen’s witty snowman Olaf, whom you cannot help but love no matter your age. Together, he and England play off one another comedically and deliver many of the film’s best, rather adult antics inside a petting zoo gift shop.
However, the true core of Little Monsters is something much gooier and, no, it’s not brains. Sitting at the screenplay’s center are lessons on adult responsibility, what makes a great teacher, love and relationships, but perhaps most of all the power of music to overcome anything—even an apocalypse.
With nods to everyone from Neil Diamond to Swift to Hanson (yes, “MMMBop”), Little Monsters is a sweet little zombie flick, one that will put a song into your heart and a smile on your face. Make no mistake, though: this is not a feel-good family flick! Singing along, Cryptic Rock give Little Monsters 4.5 of 5 stars.