Friday, January 20, 2012

Film Yap: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

After watching so many films of a genre, you’re bound to notice some patterns. In the horror genre, there are plenty of twists on the structure, like the self-aware “Scream” and the how-to guide “Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon.”

“Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” wants to join that group with its brilliant reversal on the hillbillies in horror films. In the tradition of films where college coeds go to the cabin in the woods to drink and skinny-dip, it’s always the hillbilly to be their first sign of evil. Their haunting nature of talking slowly and foreshadowing the danger to come usually means they are in on the threat. This time, Tucker and Dale are just two really nice guys.

Alan Tudyk (“Firefly”) and Tyler Labine (“Reaper”) play the titular heroes and singlehandedly save the movie with their genuine attitude to look at the brighter side of things, like being proud of their vacation cabin even if it’s a fixer-upper. When a group of college kids arrives into the woods, they mistake Tucker and Dale for classic horror villains.

Co-writer and director Eli Craig makes a great decision to shoot the whole thing like a horror film. Even though it’s a broad comedy, with the right lighting and music, it’s very easy to see why the coeds would make this mistake. Unfortunately, the central concept is the only thing holding this movie together.

It’s a clever movie but not a particularly funny one. To maintain the balance of misunderstanding, everyone has to react just right. That leaves very little room for organic comedy. Tudyk is one of the funniest actors working today, so he gets the most out of every line of dialogue, but he gets to deliver very few punchlines.

When the coeds start to accidently off themselves and the “hero” emerges as a psychopath, a laugh or two is earned. That’s about it. The concept never evolves, so once you “get” the joke, that’s all there is for 90 minutes. There’s a horror backstory that keeps getting more information in a particularly humorless fashion. A very lame romance emerges between Dale and the female lead (“30 Rock’s” Katrina Bowden) that doesn’t really fit aside from desperately trying to add meat to the story.

So the premise is wasted because they couldn’t figure out how to use it. The title suggests more of a silly adventure where these characters are thrown into a ridiculous scenario. Instead, it’s two talented comedic actors trying to find anything to work with.

The bonus features are even flatter. There are two featurettes there to overdescribe the premise. The outtakes and deleted scenes don’t add much either. There is also a commentary track with the director and the lead actors, which I haven’t had a chance to listen to. But if you put Tudyk and Labine together, it’s bound to be fun.

Film: 3 Yaps
Extras: 2 Yaps

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