In a monster-infested world, Joel learns his girlfriend is just 80 miles away. To make the dangerous journey, Joel discovers his inner hero to be with the girl of his dreams. (from IMDb)
Dylan O'Brien, who may be most notable for the Maze Runner movie series and TV's Teen Wolf, is great as Joel, a young guy who is a bit of an underdog due to his cowardice and being kind of a loner. The movie opens seven years after an asteroid hurtling toward Earth was destroyed, raining down fallout that turned all cold-blooded creatures into mutated, human-eating monsters. Most survivors reside in colonies that are secluded or underground, but their struggle to survive is a daily battle. Joel is one of the least essential in his colony, and also the only single person there. He spends most of his time sketching monsters they encounter in a guide book (which isn't the only similarity here to How To Train Your Dragon, by the way), cooking minestrone for the colony, and dreaming of reuniting with his girlfriend from years ago, Aimee.
Tired of being alone and feeling helpless, one day Joel decides to risk everything and set out on an 80-mile trek alone in an effort to find the girl of his dreams. Along the way, he briefly teams up with a man named Clyde (played by Michael Rooker) and an 8-year-old girl (Ariana Greenblatt) who help him learn how to defend himself. He also acquires a canine companion named Boy who keeps him company on his journey. The lighthearted tone of the film makes this movie especially work, as it's told almost in a tongue-in-cheek way exclusively through Joel's eyes. O'Brien is relatable and charming in the part, and I was surprised at how likable he ended up being. (It always amazes me when filmmakers seem to forget how important it is for the central character of a film to be likable -- the 2005 Steven Spielberg remake of War of the Worlds immediately comes to mind.) The special effects for the monsters aren't quite as successful, but they work more often than not. In one of the first horrific encounters Joel has with a monster that we see, it seems to be a mix of physical effects (puppetry) and digital effects, and it works really nice -- especially for conveying his crippling fear. Some of the monsters have an element of silliness to them, but for the most part, they are rather creepy or disturbing. Most of them appear to be of an insect origin, but occasionally they also take the shape of a mutated frog (one of the aforementioned "sillier" looking ones). If you're squeamish about worm-like creatures and other creepy crawlies, this is a movie you might want to pass on.
The vibe of Love and Monsters is something akin to a Men In Black or the 1999 version of The Mummy -- that blend of comedy and horror that aims to offer more thrills than truly frightening moments. Joel's personal journey - the romantic side that drives him - is sweet and endearing, and you can't help to root for the guy on his quest. The side characters in the film are all pretty good, too, especially Rooker's Clyde and Jessica Henwick's Aimee. One of the best side characters, however, is the robot Mavis (voiced by Melanie Zanetti), who adds some great comic relief during a sequence where Joel gets some quality one-on-one time with a working Mavis robot. The only characters that do fall a bit flat, unfortunately, are the film's human antagonists. They feel a little tacked-on to the story, if not entirely forced, and the battle at the end gets too over-the-top for its own good. It still has its moments, but it gets silly at times - and this time not in a good way.
The film's content is firmly a PG-13 rated outing. Although there are no uses of the "F" word, there is frequent uses of the "S" word, as well as other cuss words and plenty of uses of God's name as exclamations. There's also a little sexual content at the beginning when Joel is seen lying in bed in the colony and his voiceover is lamenting about being the only single one there (so we wear some sounds from other couples being together nearby). There is some monster violence, most notably when Joel watches a bug eat a man, and we see it in shadows on the other side of a curtain (So we see the shape of his legs falling off as he's bitten into pieces). Joel sustains some bloody cuts throughout the film, and there's a pretty gross scene where we see him pulling leeches off of himself (and then having a poisonous reaction to it, with veins popping in his skin a little bit). We also see some creature gore a couple times when bombs blow them up (with chunks of bug flesh raining down), and when we see Clyde peering over a cliff at a dead giant spider carcass below.
Love and Monsters is the right mix of serious and funny, without ever being too goofy or campy. It's creepy, gross, funny, and maybe even inspiring (with the theme of overcoming our fears), and one that will make for a good October / spooky movie season each year. The content, unfortunately, is on the edgier side (and it's definitely not as "family friendly" as some other reviewers have dubbed it), with excessive cussing and some violent content.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 11/12/20)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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