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Review: ‘Love and Monsters’ presents a reminder not to go outside that you may not want to hear

Dylan O'Brien in a scene from the movie "Love and Monsters."
Dylan O’Brien in the movie “Love and Monsters.”
(Jasin Boland/Paramount)

The Times is committed to reviewing theatrical film releases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because moviegoing carries risks during this time, we remind readers to follow health and safety guidelines as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials.

Anyone looking to escape the apocalyptic anxiety of a pandemic may want to steer clear of “Love and Monsters,” an action-comedy set seven years after a cataclysm has wiped out more than 90% of Earth’s human population. In this movie, characters spend a lot of time sheltering in distant bunkers, staying in touch via radio because it’s too dangerous to meet in person. Feel familiar?

Dylan O’Brien stars as Joel, a bumbling youngster tired of being his underground colony’s weakest resident. Joel embarks on an 80-mile journey by foot, dodging the mutated beasts that have overrun the planet, in order to find Aimee (Jessica Henwick), the girl he had a crush on in the Before Times. Along the way, he learns lessons about facing his fears that — unintentionally, given that “Love and Monsters” was shot last year — ring a little hollow in 2020.

Director Michael Matthews and screenwriters Brian Duffield and Matthew Robinson have made something that echoes “A Quiet Place” and “Zombieland” — and especially the latter, given that Joel often narrates his adventures, listing survival tips in letters to Aimee. The hero even has his own gruff, Woody Harrelson-like mentor in a cool hat. (Michael Rooker plays the surly sage.)

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But while it’s well-acted and slickly made, the movie’s derivative qualities — coupled with its inadvertent reminders of how crummy everything is outside our doors right now — make it less fun than intended. The light-hearted tone is often grating, working against the inherent drama of a world dominated by giant critters.

The story really only finds a good groove in its final third, when Joel has a major setback and discovers courage and perseverance can only carry him so far. Though it’s moderately likable throughout, only when “Love and Monsters” gets serious about the difficulties of Joel’s situation does it feel genuinely relevant.

'Love and Monsters'

Rated: PG-13 for action/violence, language and some suggestive material.

Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Playing: Starts Oct. 16 in general release where theaters are open; also on premium VOD .


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