The moment I heard that Brad Pitt was making surprise appearances at World War Z screenings throughout the country, I knew the film was in big trouble. Those kinds of kamikaze promotional stunts are generally designed to stir up excitement for a film that just isn’t very good.
I wish I could say my premonition was wrong.
The horror/action film stars Brad Pitt, as Gerry Lane, who has left his position in “crisis management” (wink-wink) for the United Nations to spend more time with his family. Lane is suddenly called into action when his families’ safety is threatened, and sent across the globe in a race against time to stop a pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself. Oh, and did I mention the threat against humanity is… Zombies?
The film starts out with great promise, a few good audience jolts, as Lane and his family (the woefully underutilized Mirelle Enos, A&E’s “The Killing” plays Gerry’s wife), flee Philadelphia, steal trailers and fight their way through grocery stores for rations. Pitt is at his best as the strong, protective father, guiding his family through the nightmarish chaos, but then he’s had plenty of experience in that area. The family heads to Newark, which in the middle of the devastation still looks pretty much the way it always looks. Unfortunately, as the audience finally gets a good, hard look at the zombies… the screams die down and the laughs ensue.
Based on the Max Brooks’ 2006 novel, which was disguised as a non-fiction “oral history” of the Zombie War, WWZ probably made more sense as a geopolitical satire, but the translation to film makes no sense whatsoever. Brooks is the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft, and apparently didn’t inherit a sense of humor from his parents.
Another sign a movie is going to be bad? Hiring writer after writer (4 in all) to fix the script… and rewriting and reshooting the last third of the film. For those who keep track of such things, WWZ’s original budget was $125 million, but by the time the reshoots were done it was up to $200 mil. And, it doesn’t look like any of the extra $75 Million went to zombie make up and prosthetics — A&E’s “Walking Dead” zombie make up is vastly superior. Word has it Director Marc Forster (“Quantum of Silence”, “Monster’s Ball”) wants to make WWZ as a trilogy. There is a third of WWZ on the cutting room floor, so he has a head start.
In case you are wondering why Pitt participated in the frantic city-to-city promotional appearances, the answer is simple. He is also one of the film’s producers, and will take a major hit if the movie tanks.
I know zombies are supposed to be the new vampires, but I could really go for a little bite from one of those cute bloodsuckers right now. Anything to get the nasty zombie taste out of my mouth.
The Bottom Line: This film will be a blockbuster for younger audiences who haven’t seen “Day of the Dead”, “Night of the Living Dead”, or “Dawn of the Dead.” My suggestion is to watch A&Es “The Walking Dead” or rent the wonderful “Shaun of the Dead” written by and starring the wonderful Simon Pegg.
MPAA Rating PG-13 (for intense frightening zombie sequences, violence and disturbing images) Running time: 1 hr. 55 min.