FEBRUARY 14, 2011
Note to all indie filmmakers – stop referencing, ripping off, paying homage to, or in any way acknowledging the existence of Kevin Smith, in particular Clerks. All it does is make any sane viewer sad, reminded of a time when he was an entertaining voice and appealing writer, instead of a blowhard crybaby. Luckily, for lack of a better word, Clerks is just one of the several movies that are referenced in Ninjas vs. Zombies, so it doesn’t really stick out as any more annoying than the rest.
I’m all for referencing stuff, but this movie takes it to new extremes: Ghostbusters, Jurassic Park, Star Wars (and related sequels), Pulp Fiction, Evil Dead, Clerks, Indiana Jones... you name a geek property, it’s probably referenced here. Sometimes the characters actually just say what movie they are talking about, but others are a bit more subtle; the Jurassic Park reference is simply two folks eating ice cream (“It’s good.” “Spared no expense.”). Those I don’t mind; if you haven’t memorized Jurassic Park you probably wouldn’t even realize it was being given a shoutout. The Clerks one, on the other hand, involves a guy saying whole lines of dialogue and then having to explain what movie he’s referencing to his confused/annoyed friend. I guess if you like Family Guy, that sort of “humor” will be right up your alley, but I just found it rather irritating, especially when it reaches Friedberg/Seltzer levels of pointlessness.
Luckily, some of the humor was right up my alley, which means I was never too far from another laugh. I particularly liked when the bad guy allowed his victim to have his breakfast before killing him, so they just sit there in silence while the guy eats his cereal. Some of the references even made me laugh; I mentally noted that one actor looked a bit like Widmore from Lost, and then a few seconds later the guy he was talking to muttered “4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42”. There was also a gag I myself had in my own no-budget zombie movie (never completed; barely even started actually), where a guy gets all geared up for battle a la Evil Dead (though I didn’t have the character say “Groovy” at the end of the sequence), only to be killed as soon as he walked out the door. They say that great minds think alike, but apparently so do ours.
And more importantly, the movie is surprisingly action packed, which keeps the reference overload to a minimum, particularly in the 3rd act which is comprised of nearly non-stop fighting. Some individual battles go on for too long (the main villain and hero fight in a tiny movie theater for what seems like 10 minutes), but I admired the ambition and effort on display; even big budget movies don’t always offer as much carnage. The FX and stunts are a bit clunky, but that is to be expected and I don’t fault it for that (again, I’ve seen studio films with FX that were just as amateurish; what was THEIR excuse?).
I do wish they had a less annoying actor as the villain though. Imagine Randal from Clerks only 2x as smug (and only about half as good of an actor – and that’s not a compliment to Jeff Anderson), and you’ll get an idea of the guy here. He delivers every single line with a cocky laid-back smile that drove me insane; I couldn’t wait for him to die. In fact, pretty much ALL of the characters were laid-back, which got kind of exhausting; it’s not until near the end of the film that any of them seemed to care about anything that was going on.
The screener surprisingly had a commentary track by the director and two others (blanking on who). Usual stuff for a backyard indie; they poke fun at some of their less than successful shortcuts, mockingly suggest that the film is award-worthy, and bust each others’ balls while divulging set anecdotes and how they were able to secure this location or who that particular extra was related to. They mention another commentary; not sure if that just never happened or if the screener wasn’t “complete”, but honestly most screeners don’t even have proper menus let alone any of the supplements, so it was a nice little surprise.
And, as I’ve said before, I have all the respect in the world for anyone who manages to pull together their friends and make a movie for pennies (especially a zombie comedy, given my unsuccessful attempt). Besides, my main issue with the movie was the humor, but I’m also pretty picky with what makes me laugh, especially compared to the majority (the top two sitcoms on TV: Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men, I’ve tried to watch a few times and sat in silence until giving up and/or falling asleep on the plane). And even with that “handicap”, I was still more or less entertained and impressed, so once you get past the low-budget-ness of the movie, I’m sure most folks who enjoy these sort of things will find that it’s one of the more successful.
What say you?