Friday, October 14, 2011

Danny Vs. TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL ...!

- Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil is a very worthwhile horror/comedy that is currently making the rounds in limited theatrical release, and is also out on VOD and digital platforms. It's one of those buzzworthy gems that has loads of charm and plenty of laughs, and it's definitely worth a look if you enjoy your slasher flicks with a heavy dose of self-aware slapstick.

The movie basically mashes up two staples of horror: preppy college kids being brutally murdered by a mysterious attacker, and redneck hillbillies terrorizing out-of-their-element city slickers - and turns 'em on their head. See, the movie's would-be psycho-rednecks, the titular Tucker and Dale, are actually lovable, funny, well-meaning, and surprisingly smart, appearances not withstanding. Meanwhile, the group of preppy college kids run the gamut from clueless to obnoxious to just plain insane and sociopathic. So of course, what ensues is a comedy of misunderstanding, with Tucker and Dale being overly trusting of the college kids who are out camping in their backwoods 'hood, and the college kids being unnecessarilly terrified of the amiable hillbillies. As you might expect, one thing leads to another, and despite Tucker and Dale's best intentions, horror, violence, and death ensue (typically in over-the-top, hilarious fashion).

Although the movie's script is fairly basic, and doesn't do much to flesh out its characters, we still root for Tucker and Dale because the two leads, TV veterans Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine, are so darn charismatic and naturally funny. Tudyk, as Tucker, is more of the straight man, and Labine, as Dale, is in the sort of Chris Farley role. In particular, he's got some great scenes with Katrina Bowden, as Allison - one of the college kids who gets rescued from drowning by Dale, even though her friends all assume that Dale actually kidnapped her. Bowden's time on 30 Rock, hanging with Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin, has clearly paid off, as she's developed some excellent comic timing. She works very well with Labine, who I've liked since his stint on the flawed but likable TV show Reaper. The other standout is definitely Jesse Moss as Chad, the preppy ringleader of the group of college kids. Straight out of an 80's slasher film, Chad is just a fun character, and Moss does a great job of portraying his devolution from cocky kid to crazytown.

The movie is at its best when it's going balls-to-the-wall with over-the-top action and violence. That said, it never quite reaches the blissful heights of, say, Shawn of the Dead, and could surely have used an action maestro like Edgar Wright at the helm, to ensure maximum awesomeness. As is, the direction from Eli Craig is serviceable, but a bit bland given the craziness of the plotline. Speaking of Shawn of the Dead, Tucker & Dale stops short of reaching the overall heights of satire of that modern horror-comedy classic. The joke of Tucker & Dale is that its leads are not at all what they appear to be. But their personalities are only developed so far. We never 100% get a sense of who these guys are, what their daily lives are like, etc. I also thought that the movie became a little too one-note as it went on. The movie repeats variations on the same basic gag throughout its duration, and while it's a funny joke - that murder and mayhem ensue despite Tucker and Dale's best intentions - the whole thing plays out like one long Looney Tunes sketch and less like a fully-formed movie. That cartoonishness extends to the by-the-numbers happy ending, which seems to be begging for some final, darkly-comic twist.

Still, as an over-the-top romp filled with brutally-satisfying carnage, TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL is surprisingly satisfying and endearing. With a clever premise, plenty of genuinely funny moments, and some talented actors in the lead roles, this is a welcome addition to the horror-comedy cannon.

My Grade: B+

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