LIFE AFTER BETH
Directed by Jeff Baena
Starring Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Anna Kendrick, Cheryl Hines
Sometimes movies have such a clever concept and a great cast that it seems impossible to be a failure. Well, in all fairness, Life After Beth isn't terrible, but it's not fantastic either. Something is missing, but it's hard to tell what that is.
Starring the Queen of Awkward Comedy, Aubrey Plaza, Life After Beth follows Zach, a teenager (Dane DeHaan) struggling to overcome the pain of his girlfriend, Beth, dying from a snake bite. Just days after the funeral, Zach catches a glimpse of Beth in her parents' house and realizes that there must be some sort of scheme going on. Perhaps this was all an elaborate plan to get rid of him instead of just breaking up with him? If only it were that simple. Beth is on the brink of zombihood and Zach seems to be the only one who realizes it. Beth's demise into the undead becomes the basis for the best parts of the story and Zach's yearn for truth allows for a levelheaded approach to this horror/comedy (though, it's definitely more dark comedy than horror....actually, there's not really any horror involved besides the whole zombie thing).
What works for Life After Beth are the great performances by the cast, including Plaza, DeHaan, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Anna Kendrick, Paul Reiser, and Cheryl Hines. Each of them have moments that take Life After Beth to the next level. But, while they shine, they also somewhat feel like too minor of characters for the story. In turn, Life After Beth comes across as a long-form sitcom than a feature film. There are also some great, clever details throughout that will undoubtedly be some of the film's most-known things, like the fact that zombies love smooth jazz. Hilarious.
What doesn't work is the story's arc and the flow. It's as if director Jeff Baena forgot to include part of the story or the editors were afraid it was too long. The build up to the last act was so great that things just sort of came and went at the end. It's too bad, because the film was enjoyable and never felt boring. It just seems sort of empty in hindsight.
Sight gags fill the screen multiple times (Plaza attached to an oven is a highlight) and there's enough good material here to definitely make Life After Beth worth watching. It's a great entry in the collection of zombie films, but will probably make it as more of a fluff film later on than a zombie classic. Kudos to Plaza, though, who proves, once again, that she is a star.
Runtime: 91 minutes