Love and Monsters

Love and Monsters is the perfect movie if you can't decide whether you want a romantic-comedy or a horror flick. Director Michael Matthews follows up his acclaimed Five Fingers for Marseilles with this hybrid story about a young man on a quest for love – one that, in an early scene, finds him chased by a gigantic bullfrog. What's that all about? It seems an asteroid was headed toward the Earth, so chemical weapons were shot into space to destroy it. They worked, but the fallout killed off a huge chunk of the human population and turned bugs and amphibians into super-sized creatures.

Dylan O'Brien (The Maze Runner) stars as Joel Dawson. Seven years ago, he and his girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick) were separated when all that crazy stuff went down. He now lives in an underground bunker with fellow survivors, while she's in another one eighty miles away. They occasionally communicate via radio.

Eventually, Joel gets tired of being without his true love, so he decides to leave the safety of the bunker and make the trip to find Aimee. Along the way, he meets up with a ground-dweller named Clyde (Michael Rooker) traveling with a little girl, Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt). They teach him basic survival skills that come in handy as he encounters larger-than-normal beetles, slugs, leeches, and more. Joel also meets a stray dog, Boy, who ends up accompanying him.

There's an undeniable, if unconventional, romantic spirit in Love and Monsters. People often talk about the importance of grand gestures in romance. What could be more grand than facing near-endless peril to reunite with someone for whom you have deep feelings? Whereas most romantic-comedies have to manufacture “Will they or won't they?” suspense, this one develops it organically. Joel has no way of knowing for sure whether Aimee will still be in love with him if or when he shows up. He definitely loves her enough to risk his life to be with her, though.

Scenes with monsters, meanwhile, are a lot of fun. Joel initially has a hurdle to overcome, which is that he freezes when scared. The movie puts him into humorous/dangerous situations that force him to get over that fear. Visual effects used to create the monsters are very well-done. Rather than stuffing the story with them, Love and Monsters uses them sparingly and effectively. They're here to provide a threat and a learning opportunity for Joel. Consequently, whenever one comes onscreen, we know something important is about to happen.

The picture's third act introduces a new character who's here to provide a disappointingly predictable service to the plot. It's also kind of a shame that Clyde and Minnow factor into things as little as they do. Rooker and Greenblatt make an appealing odd couple. Giving them a few more scenes would have been nice. Even with those minor issues, Love and Monsters delivers a lot of pure entertainment, thanks to O'Brien's appealing performance, several cool action sequences, a sharp sense of humor, and those gloriously massive creatures.

out of four

Love and Monsters is rated PG-13 for action/violence, language and some suggestive material. The running time is 1 hour and 49 minutes.