Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse has an amusing title and a ripe premise, yet the picture doesn’t quite live up to its potential.
Director Christopher Landon desires to whip up a fury of gore and slapstick, and select moments do hit their mark, but Scouts Guide isn’t nearly as tight or funny as it could be, content to stage easy bodily function gags and wheezy non-sequiturs instead of digging into the premise with both hands.
Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures
There’s a strip club called “Lawrence of Alabia.” If that brings a smile to your face, then Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse might be agreeable in the humor department.
At Biotine Labs in suburban California, a careless janitor disturbs the observation area for a resting zombie, unleashing a plague that spreads around town in a matter of hours.
Unaware of the growing unrest, American Scout Society members Ben (Tye Sheridan) and Carter (Logan Miller) are preparing for their swan song as scouts, unable to break the news to earnest pal Augie (Joey Morgan). Offered a chance to attend a secret senior party, the twosome make plans to sneak away from their weekend camping trip.
Instead of finding adolescent bliss, the boys are greeted by doomsday, teaming up with stripper Denise (Sarah Dumont) to survive. While Augie experiences his own nightmare with roving zombies, Ben, Carter, and Denise try to make their way to safety, hoping to find survivors in the next town.
Scouts Guide doesn’t immediately reveal its inadequacies, making a game attempt to instill characterization in the core trio of scouts. Carter is your typical teen horndog, embarrassed by his history as an American Scout, outgrowing such responsibility.
Ben is more sensitive to the scouting life and to Augie’s feelings, aware that the bullied boy recently lost his father and doesn’t have any other friends.
For a movie about the undead, Scouts Guide takes a moment to maintain a human side to the extravaganza. Sadly, the screenplay (co-written by Landon) hits the same beats over and over, returning to the brotherly betrayal angle (Augie holds a grudge) any time the feature threatens to give itself entirely to exploitation elements.
Scouts Guide actually connects on occasion, led by an impressive dedication to goopy gore effects, which highlight ripped flesh and spilling entrails, while the general decayed look of the zombie army is appealing.
Cinematography by Brandon Trost is a highlight, bathing the feature in color and dramatic lighting, giving the low-wattage picture some thrilling style as the gang tours town streets and neighborhood homes, including a strip club, where Ben and Carter have their first encounter with the topless undead.
The adult establishment is called “Lawrence of Alabia,” and if that brings a smile to your face, perhaps Scouts Guide will be quite agreeable in the humor department.
The rest of the jokes don’t rise to such a level of naughty imagination, sharing diarrhea encounters, an oral sex switcheroo with a monster, and an odd sight gag that finds Ben gripping a zombie penis as he dangles out of a window.
The sophomoric stuff is tedious, but the weird stuff is lamer. The home of recently-turned Scout Leader Rogers (David Koechner) is filled with Dolly Parton merchandise, scoring Augie’s battle with his beloved guardian to “9 to 5.” Another dud has the survivors singing Britney Spears to pacify a snarling ghoul.
Performances are generally pleasurable. Dumont looks the part, but she barely remains awake, while Sheridan is endearingly credible as a good kid who’s made a bad decision.
When Scouts Guide gives itself over to the ridiculousness of the plot, it offers slight but steady entertainment, playing up the heroism of the badge-wearing brawlers as they attempt to save the Class of 2015.
Fragments of insanity recharge the creative batteries (zombie cats!), but fatigue and predictability weigh it down, refusing to let ’er rip with a concept that invites sustained mayhem and sharper jokes.