Monday, August 29, 2011

Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil - Digital Download Review


Theatrical Release Date: September 30, 2011

It has been a long time since I saw something that took a well established movie genre and turned it on its head. Shaun of the Dead did it almost seven years ago (has it really been that long?) and nothing else has ever really came close to that classic since...until now that is.

Review Vital Stats:
Service: Xbox Zune Marketplace
Download Type: Rental
Picture Quality: HD

Loves: New spins on overdone genres
Likes: Alan Tudyk, Spoofs, Horror/Comedies
Neutral: Teen slasher flicks
Hates: Trailers that show you the ENTIRE MOVIE
Magnet: The new independent studio on the block to keep an eye on

Do you want to know how I heard about Tucker & Dale vs. Evil? I was browsing the rottentomatoes "coming soon" section for movies coming out in the next month or so and for anyone that has never glanced over their selection of films listed there it can sometimes feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. It's not easy picking something out of the collection of films listed there and usually I just skim over anything that looks overly cheesy or just plain bad. At first glance of the poster for Tucker & Dale I was struck with a sudden need to ignore it, that is until I saw that it had a 100% rating which is a rarity for the infamous online critics lounge. Then my mind automatically compensated for this oddity by coming to the conclusion that was a percentage based off only a handful of reviews so I decided to investigate which led me to discover it was based off a total of seventeen reviews at that moment which is pretty darn good, especially for what appeared to be a rather silly looking low budget comedy. My next step was to watch the trailer to see if there was any truth to the glowing reviews I saw there and despite the trailer being a little too in depth (which I will get to in a bit) I thought it looked pretty good, so I decided to download the film and see for myself. It's funny how we sometimes stumble upon these hidden gems.

Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) have a dream to own a summer vacation home. That dream has come true and they are both heading up into the woods to fix up the broken down cabin. Little do they know that in the exact same woods there is a group of young college kids that have come out for the weekend to do a little partying. One night while doing a little night fishing at the local lake Tucker and Dale are witness to an accident where one of the college girls, Allison (Katrina Bowden), gets injured right in front of them. When they try to rescue her the other college kids mistake their gesture as an act of violence and thinking that the two hillbillies have kidnapped Allison go to the leader of their little frat pack, Chad (Jesse Moss), for assistance. Soon both Tucker and Dale find themselves under attack by one college kid after another who have a tendency to hurt themselves more than anything else as Tucker fights to save his new vacation home and Dale discovers through the kindness of Allison that there is more to life than he ever realized.

Tucker & Dale are just a couple of nice guys under attack by crazed college kids.

I really do love it when a movie flips the cliches and delivers an experience that while still deeply entrenched in a specific genre still feels fresh due to its different approach. Tucker & Dale does so many things right from the casting to the script to the well timed and delivered bits of horror and comedy that it almost seems kind of silly that my first instinct when discovering it was to turn a blind eye towards it. Horror comedies are not an easy thing to pull off either, if you're not too careful you could easily stray one way and leave the other off in the distance and while that would certainly please fans of which ever direction it went in it would alienate any fans of the other while doing so. Tucker & Dale is definitely more comedy than horror but I think that was a wise choice given all the other subplots and complexities going on in the film.

Yes, I just said a movie called Tucker & Dale vs. Evil has complexities. Don't get me wrong though, there is nothing here that will tax your brain but it definitely has more going on than it first appears. One of the charms of the film is that it ends up being much more than just the sum of its parts. Sure most of the humor is derived from the mistaken identity formula with the group of naive college kids thinking that Tucker & Dale are a couple of murderous hillbillies that kidnapped their friend. That is the movie's selling point and I can't knock it because it is a good one. Hell that is the reason I jumped on board, the idea of having the college kids in a horror movie be the killers instead of the hillbillies is pretty dam ingenious to the point of me wondering why it took so long for somebody to do it.

Allison finds herself in a strange place.

Beyond that admittedly awesome framework is the surprisingly sweet and tender budding romance between Dale and Allison. This isn't the second coming of Gone with the Wind but it was handled in just the right way where we start to care for the relationship brewing between them (which most strictly romantic movies fail at).When we first meet Tucker and Dale we see them the same way the college kids do, as a couple of creepy dudes who keep staring at them and walk up to them carrying a scythe giggling like a crazy person. Even though we are let on to the fact that Tucker and Dale are just a couple of pushovers before anyone else, especially the fragile and shy Dale, the film never truly adds this extra layer until Allison is rescued by Tucker & Dale. And better yet is that it works, Dale and Allison's story was every bit as important as anything else happening in the movie. I would even go so far as to say their story becomes the main focal point of the entire movie after a while. The last thing I expected when sitting down to watch this movie was to be won over by a love story amidst an every growing stack of college kid carcasses.

Don't worry though, anyone looking for a good number of laughs mixed with a slew of outlandish deaths will not be disappointed either. The group of college kids are mostly just fodder for our enjoyment, isn't that how it is in all horror movies though? They are just a collection of cliches on top of overly broad stereotypes with such well known character types as the outspoken black man, the trashy white woman and the overbearing borderline psychotic boyfriend. They get dispatched in some fairly imaginative ways but the key to this whole ordeal is that Tucker & Dale don't kill them, the kids actually off themselves in their attempts of liberating Allison from her supposed prison. I will not go into detail beyond that because part of the fun is figuring out who is gonna bite the dust next and in what manner will they go out. If the entire movie was just made up of this one idea it would still be hilarious but the humor is hammered home by the reactions from Tucker & Dale to everything happening around them.

Why are college kids always so dumb?

All they did was save a girl from drowning and the next thing they know they find themselves constantly under attack by this group of deranged kids whom in Tucker & Dale's eyes are lunatics that have some sort of mass suicide pact that they are executing at their new vacation home. While Dale is busy attending to Allison by making her breakfast and playing some board games with her and Tucker is busy trying to fix up his new cabin the college kids led by Chad are constantly scheming to find some way to take our two heroes out. This is where the flip comes from and instead of having the hillbillies terrorize the partying teenagers, the teenagers are terrorizing the hillbillies but doing a very horrible job at it. But probably the most important aspect to all this is that in some crazy way it all makes sense.

I have an eye for situations that feel false or manufactured to get a desired result and in films like this I usually find myself distracted by some illogical choices made by certain characters or events that take place that don't jive with everything that came before it. The one thing I that kept nagging me when watching the movie was how it was gonna handle the idea of the mistaken identity and keep the entire situation afloat and believable. For example some of the questions I had rattling around in my head was why don't the kids just go knock on the front door? Or how about the fact that Allison is sitting in the cabin the whole time, why doesn't she just go outside and try to straighten everything out by telling her friends that she is alright? Then there is the question of why would nobody go get the police or why neither Tucker or Dale are able to reason with the kids. Suffice to say that all these questions and more were answered in more than satisfying ways and while I know these issues are not a big deal for a lot of people they are for me and I was very happy with how the film dealt with them.

Dale and Allison greet the coming onslaught.

Probably the biggest winner though for best decisions is the cast here. The key ingredient to any movie that features two main stars as best friends is to have a pair of actors that not only play well off one another but also have just enough distinct personality differences to them that they aren't stepping on each others feet. I have been a fan of Alan Tudyk's for quite some time now and it was rather nice to see him get a bigger slice of the pie with a starring role which he did not waste. As for his compatriot Tyler Labine I must confess ignorance to his resume but given the fact that he had to pull triple duty as the lovable oaf, a love sick softy and a reluctant hero he exceeded all my expectations and became my favorite character in the movie with ease. Every time he would stammer as he searched for the right words for a given situation was hysterical and his chemistry with Tudyk made me wish the two of them would do more films together. The two of them are the glue that holds all the proceedings together and I challenge anyone to not get attached to them by the end of the film.

The college kids were as mentioned about as one dimensional as they could get with the exception of Allison and to some extent Chad as well. While Moss as Chad was saddled with the duty of being the jealous boyfriend and did get to shine a bit near the end when his character goes into full on rage mode, it was Bowden as the object of desire for Dale that got the lions share of character growth. I can't rightly say that the character of Allison was fully fleshed out (she is a very nice girl but that's really it) but Bowden's charismatic screen presence was enough to make me care for her and hope that her and Dale end up together by the time the end credits roll. Although the little nugget about her wanting to become a therapist had one of the better comedic payoffs in the film as did her tendency to repeatedly get knocked unconscious. I can see some people taking issue with the somewhat limited appeal of these characters but they were never really what the movie was about in the first place. This movie is called Tucker & Dale and those are the two characters that mattered most when it comes down to it.

Now this is a hard situation to explain.

With all this love being thrown at the movie there must have been something wrong with it right? I guess if I were to nitpick I would bring up the sloppy intro to the movie that while it makes sense by the time the film is over it doesn't really payoff in the end and sets you up for something that never happens. I also kind of wished that the movie would have held off on revealing to the audience so quickly that Tucker & Dale are not bad guys. The few moments early on when we see them through the eyes of the college kids were downright hysterical and I kind of wished it would carried on all the way up to the point when they saved Allison. I am not sure if or how it would have worked but I can't help but think there was a wasted opportunity for some more laughs there. The most glaring problem with the movie though actually has nothing to do with the movie at all. What I am talking about is that damn theatrical trailer which shows you every single thing in the movie. Curious to know how or if all the college kids die? Then watch the trailer. Wanna see the set up and pay off for most of the jokes? Then watch the trailer. I understand that they want to lure people into seeing the movie and considering how little is known about it it kind of makes sense but I still don't like to have the best moments in a movie ruined for me while trying to sell me on it.

I can't say for sure what the future holds for Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. Will it become a cult hit? It has the potential to be one. Will it become a mainstream success? With blood, laughs and love it certainly has the chance. Will it garner the recognition it deserves? I have no idea. That isn't the point though, regardless of whatever lies ahead for both Tucker & Dale, and despite my best wishes for it, I am content enough in the knowledge that I like the film for what it is which is a well made and acted little movie that made me laugh on multiple occasions and cringe at others while also giving me a decent little romance to tie it all off with. It does everything it is supposed to and it does it well. I suggest that when you get the chance that you...




Brian said...

Perhaps the best movie of the year

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