‘Little Monsters’ SXSW Review: Lupita Nyong’o Proves She Can Handle Any Messy Situation

Little Monsters tells the story of an immature musician named Dave (Alexander England) going on his nephew Felix’s class trip to a petting zoo. A zombie outbreak reaches the petting zoo and kindergarten teacher, Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o), struggles to keep her young students safe with the foul-mouthed musician in tow.

Little Monsters
Little Monsters | Ben King/Sundance Institute

The movie is a comedy that happens to have zombies

The movie is a comedy first. The kind that heavily leans into cursing around children and explaining things like what a douchebag is to them. Dave is a character that many comedy fans are familiar with given he doesn’t have a job and isn’t great with children. Josh Gad hits on the mature jokes even harder as a famous personality named Teddy McGiggle, who is anything but kid-friendly in real life.

Those characteristics could certainly lead to a surprisingly sentimental comedy like Role Models. However, Little Monsters doesn’t have as many transforming characters so that beat didn’t hit quite as hard. The element of zombies may make you think of Shaun of the Dead, and the zombies are used in creative ways comically, metaphorically and physically.

The plot of the movie is supposed to put Dave up to the test to care about someone other than himself for a change. However, the person who was truly tested by the rough script throughout the movie and passed was Lupita Nyong’o. She also plays the familiar character of the hot teacher as Miss Caroline, but she quickly proves that she is more than that.

We see Nyong’o comically, which is a way we’ve never seen her before

Nyong’o is visually the bright light in this dark comedy by wearing a bright yellow dress as she beautifully sings to her students and plays the ukulele. She is also the ray of hope when circumstances become dire and she single-handedly chops off the heads of zombies, reminding you she’s also perfect as an action hero.

We see Nyong’o comically, which is a way we’ve never seen her before. At first, she is very much the straight man to Dave’s manchild persona. Later she shows her physical comedic chops when disguising zombies in order to keep her class calm. Although the movie wavers through the other characters, it’s apparent in the writing of Miss Caroline that she is respected, capable but still very much a human.

The movie is a love letter to teachers that way. It’s also a love letter to director, Abe Forsythe’s son. That love also comes through in the writing of the young character, Felix. He is a trusting child that soaks information up like a sponge. Felix is smart and also gets moments of showing his own abilities.

In the end, the movie isn’t about Felix or Miss Caroline. It’s about Dave who is a weak spot in the movie in more ways than one. However, the movie is worth a watch for them despite that. The movie will leave you hoping Nyong’o does another comedy in the future and maybe even a musical. She is certainly working against being put in a box and movies will be better for it.

Read more: Lupita Nyong’o Explains Why She and Other Harvey Weinstein Accusers Remained Silent Until Now

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