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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Love and Monsters is a post-apocalyptic adventure-comedy-thriller starring Dylan O'Brien. He plays Joel, the odd man out in a small underground colony that formed after asteroid pieces hit Earth seven years before, wiping out 95% of the population and turning cold-blooded creatures into monstrous, human-killing mutants. When Joel realizes that his former girlfriend is only 85 miles away, he decides to brave the surface, which is filled with countless supersized creepy crawlies capable of killing people. They're sometimes quite frightening, strking quickly and injuring or killing several characters. People use various weapons (guns, crossbows, grenades, etc.) against the monsters, and there are many close calls involving humans and the movie's beloved dog. Joel talks about the fact that most of his podmates have coupled up and are having loud, physical relationships; there are also a few kissing scenes. Language is occasionally strong ("s--t," "holy s--t," "damn," etc.), and some characters drink homemade beer. Amid the scares, the movie promotes communication, empathy, perseverance, and teamwork.
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What's the story?
LOVE AND MONSTERS starts off with an explanation of how, seven years earlier, pieces of a broken asteroid hit Earth and caused cold-blooded animals to mutate into larger-than-life killer creatures. After 95% of the population was killed off, the survivors hid in underground bunkers called colonies. Main character Joel (Dylan O'Brien) tells viewers that he's the odd-man-out loner in a colony full of romantic couples. When he realizes, thanks to the CB radio, that his former girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick) is only 85 miles away (about a seven-day trek), Joel decides to head to the surface and make his way toward her with just a hand-drawn map, a crossbow, and a backpack. Along the way, he meets a dog named Boy and teams up with grizzled Clyde (Michael Rooker) and his precocious young companion, Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt), both of whom know a lot about surviving on the surface. Together, they make their way toward Aimee's colony while battling a variety of life-threatening beasties.
Is it any good?
O'Brien's earnest charisma makes this comedic post-apocalyptic adventure a surprisingly sweet and entertaining pick. Movies aren't released in a vacuum. Given the state of the world in 2020, there's a particular appeal to watching a post-apocalyptic movie, so it's a relief that this one is, despite all of the human-eating creatures, irresistibly cute and funny. Life in a bunker surrounded by a colony (or bubble) that works together under unthinkable, unprecedented, life-or-death circumstances feels especially resonant in 2020, and the underlying themes of community, love, and teamwork are important reminders of the values that are needed to overcome not just a "monsterpocalypse" but any catastrophe.
O'Brien, who first broke out in Teen Wolf and then The Maze Runner films, is quite good at portraying Joel, a self-deprecating everyguy who's known more for making his colony minestrone than for fighting the monsters aboveground. He sketches and journals and tries to keep his PTSD at bay, until one day he decides to risk everything to reach Aimee, whom his brain has turned into an idealized version of his one true love. Rooker and Greenblatt are appealing as his hardened but kind companions on the road, and a shout-out needs to be given to the canine performer who plays the expressive Boy. For an uplifting view of humanity, even at what seems like the end of the world, check out this understated adventure about a guy who survives and thrives against all odds.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Love and Monsters. Is it necessary to the story? What do you think when a movie mixes violence with comedy and even romance? How do the sci-fi themes impact the violence?
Discuss the genre of post-apocalyptic movies. Which ones are your favorites? Do you prefer those that occur in the near future and reference popular culture and history, or do you like the ones in the distant future with no mention of contemporary reality?
What does Joel learn on his hero's journey? Who helps him? What do you think happens next?
- On DVD or streaming: January 5, 2021
- Cast: Dylan O'Brien, Michael Rooker, Ariana Greenblatt
- Director: Michael Matthews
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Character strengths: Communication, Courage, Empathy, Perseverance
- Run time: 109 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: action/violence, language and some suggestive material
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: April 19, 2021
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