Combustible Celluloid
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With: Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill, Jack McBrayer, Leigh Whannell, Nasim Pedrad, Ian Brennan, Jorge Garcia, Cooper Roth, Miles Elliot, Morgan Lily, Sunny May Allison, Armani Jackson, Peter Kwong, Kate Flannery
Written by: Leigh Whannell, Ian Brennan, based on a story by Leigh Whannell, Ian Brennan, Josh C. Waller
Directed by: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion
MPAA Rating: R for horror violence and gore, language including sexual references, and some drug use
Running Time: 88
Date: 09/18/2015

Cooties (2015)

2 Stars (out of 4)

The Kids Are All Wrong

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Beginning promisingly with an utterly gruesome prologue (you'll never eat chicken nuggets again) and some funny, likable characters, this horror-comedy eventually becomes both bland and tasteless.

Struggling writer Clint (Elijah Wood) returns from a sojourn in New York to his hometown of Fort Chicken to take a job as a substitute summer school teacher. He meets an old crush, Lucy (Alison Pill), in the teacher's lounge, but his hopes are dashed when he learns she's dating an uncouth P.E. teacher, Wade (Rainn Wilson).

Meanwhile, some tainted chicken nuggets have found their way to the school cafeteria, and a girl has been infected with some kind of terrible zombie-like disease. She bites another kid, and soon most of the kids have turned into flesh-eating monsters. The teachers, who remain unaffected, must band together to somehow survive.

Co-written by Leigh Whannell, who helped concoct the Saw and Insidious movies, Cooties might have started out on the drawing board as a good idea, and it certainly attracted a fine cast. It makes some wry, satirical comments about modern schooling and parenting (with Ritalin and Adderall making appearances), as well as a heartfelt defense of the profession of teacher.

However, the idea of kids as zombies, with adults beating, bashing, pummeling, and slashing them, grows distasteful and sour, and the laughs stop. Moreover, the movie also loses interest in the humans, and they turn into cliches. (There's even an unfunny Asian stereotype.) It's evident that co-directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion ended up in a corner with no way out, especially given the weirdly abrupt ending.

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