Thursday, October 29, 2015

“Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse” – You know what kind of movie this is.

To steal a phrase from John Oliver’s show Last Week Tonight – Boy Scouts: How is this still a thing? I remember back in elementary school when kids would show up to school wearing their Cub Scout uniforms. I went to a Catholic school for a few years and I was a little jealous because they were allowed to wear those instead of the required uniform, and I thought it would only be fair if I was allowed to wear my baseball uniform. Once I started going to public school, jealousy changed to mild derision because they stood out like sore thumbs and looked like dorks (as would I, had I worn my baseball uniform). Of course, I was forced to wear sweat pants to school (thanks mom and dad), so I’m sure they were looking at me and thinking the same thing (and they were right). But, the one thing I never thought was “I wish I was in scouts.” No disrespect to the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Cub Scouts, but anachronistic only begins to describe an organization best known for selling cookies and popcorn in front of grocery stores.

I get that scouts and sports are roughly equivalent in what kids get out of them, but you don’t see competitions featuring scout troops tying knots or starting fires. People still play sports by the millions and many get paid to do it. When was the last time you saw a scout helping someone cross the road? When was the last time a tent came without directions? When was the last time you needed to tie a complicated knot? Most of the skills learned in scouts stopped being relevant decades ago because, let’s face it, hardly anybody gets lost in the woods anymore and technology has rendered nearly all of those skills pointless. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, a movie featuring scouts that use none of their scout skills to survive a zombie outbreak in their town, but do use modern technology and a trampoline.

Ben, Carter, and Augie (Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, and Joey Morgan, respectively) are high school sophomores who still wear their scout uniforms to school and are the only three remaining scouts of their troop, led by Scout Leader Rogers (David Koechner). Ben is the nice guy with eyes for Carter’s hot sister, Kendall (Halston Sage). Carter is the horny, douchebag trying to convince Ben to finally leave scouts. Augie is the token fat friend who has earned every scouts accomplishment badge possible. There’s a big, secret party that Carter wants to go to (ditching Augie in the process), but the zombie breakout ruins that plan. Instead, the three scouts spend the movie running from place to place trying to not get eaten. Also, there’s a strip club cocktail waitress named Denise (Sarah Dumont) with them because this movie was made for horny teenaged boys. And, yes, she’s scantily clad wielding a shotgun because that’s what kind of movie this is.

As I alluded to before, this movie fails most glaringly in that their scout skills are barely used. Ben carves a spear out of a mop handle, Augie lights an explosive using a flint, and a couple of knots are tied. That’s it. Considering this film is a very blatant B-movie, horror-comedy, it’s amazing that the writers (Lona Williams, Carrie Evans, and Emi Mochizuki) didn’t overplay the value of their scout patch-signifying skills. Of course, that’s probably due to them figuring out ways to have the kids say fuck and pussy as much as possible, while sprinkling in lots of sexual sight gags (a toothless zombie gumming an ass, zombie boobs, zombie pole dancing, and zombie cunnilingus among others). Could you focus on better writing with those elements? You’re right – yes, yes, you could.

Conversely, Denise does most of the heavy lifting, killing the most zombies and constantly saving the boys, all without any scout skills. She single-handedly proves that this movie could have substituted anything for scouts and not changed at all. The writing in this movie was as rotten as a zombie’s penis and I know that because we get to see a zombie penis get slowly yanked off and I mean that literally.
The final nail in the coffin of useful scout skills comes in the climax when the boys go to a hardware shop to arm themselves so they can save everyone at the party. Rather than just picking up nail guns and knives, they fashion incredibly complicated weapons because, again, that’s what kind of movie this is. Ben straps knives to a weed whacker, Augie fashions a gun out of PVC piping that shoots wooden balls, and Carter fashions a nail-shooting crossbow out of a glue gun (or he just makes a nail gun look like a crossbow – either way, it’s stupid). Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember any of the boys having a MacGyver patch on their shirts. Also, even for a movie as intentionally dumb as this one, walking into a hardware store and not just grabbing a bunch of nail guns and hedge clippers (or any other stabbing tool) was wildly stupid.

By now, you probably think I hated this movie, but you’d be wrong. For the same reasons I enjoyed movies like Hot Tub Time Machine and Strange Wilderness, I found myself enjoying Scouts – brainless, silly humor. I found myself laughing through much of the movie, cringing at the unsightly sight gags, and cheering at the early demise of Rogers, though I think he should have stayed human longer to help facilitate and encourage the use of scout skills (full disclosure: I can’t stand Koechner – he is one of the worst comedic actors and sits alongside Melissa McCarthy on my shelf of least funniest people on the planet. Casting him as the Scout Leader was a terrible idea and he kept coming back throughout the film because zombies. In other words – boooooo!!!!). I have no defense other than it was nice watching a B-movie horror comedy that was intended to be as such (unlike The Visit, despite what its defenders claim) and it included zombie animals, something almost universally ignored in zombie movies. Also, the teenage boy in me still likes zombies and boobs.

Rating: Ask for all of your money back – for the movie that is. Thin Mints are still worth the existence of the Girl Scouts.

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