The Loneliest Boy in the World Review: Brainless Zombie Comedy Features Too Many Elbows to the Ribs – TheWrap

The tedious zombie comedy The Loneliest Boy in the World joins a number of recent faux-retro satires that like Psycho Goreman (2020), Turbo Kid (2015), and Kung Fury (2015) before it re-present pop culture artifacts from the 1980s as knowingly kitschy comfort food.

In The Loneliest Boy in the World, an emotionally disturbed orphan digs up and befriends a quartet of mysteriously re-animated corpses, who then inexplicably act like his surrogate family members. The kid, Oliver (Max Harwood, Everybodys Talking About Jamie), has no friends and no social intelligence, because hes addicted to TV (ha ha, he likes Alf). Oliver also lives alone in a pink house whose interior design seems to have been partly inspired by Barbies Dreamhouse playset.

Unfortunately, director Martin Owen (The Intergalactic Adventures of Max Cloud) and screenwriter Piers Ashworth (co-writer of Blithe Spirit) dont challenge or really highlight anything funny about Olivers delusional, media-poisoned nostalgia. The gags in The Loneliest Boy in the World also tend to be so broad and lazy that its hard to imagine how this movies retro-bait sensibility will appeal to anyone other than the targets of this poisoned-apple crowdpleasers toothless criticism.

The jokes ultimately on you if you want to root for Oliver, a disturbed loner who keeps to himself and marks the dates on his calendar with a mantra of be normal, which he writes down repeatedly, because, ha ha, hes clearly not. Oliver receives counseling and an ultimatum from his social worker Margot (Ashley Benson, Pretty Little Liars) and her skeptical colleague Julius (Evan Ross, Pink Skies Ahead). In one weeks time, Oliver has to make a friend a real one or be sent to a mental asylum, as he scribbles on his calendar.

Oliver has until Halloween to make a friend, but his coping skills are nil, so he naturally looks for companionship in the nearby graveyard, where he often visits his recently deceased mother (Carol Anne Watts). In a flashback, we see how mommy died: in the backyard swimming pool, after Oliver accidentally pushes a radio into the water while trying to take a Polaroid photo. Mums body goes flying and gets impaled on a garden gnome. Your mileage may vary, but much of The Loneliest Boy in the World tends to be this conceptually stillborn and nudge-you-in-your-ribs unfunny.

Olivers quest to find a friend leads him to disinter the bodies of four recently buried victims, three of whom died in a plane crash. A couple of unnecessarily drawn-out establishing scenes introduce us to these four characters, none of whom get along with or really know each other prior to coming back from the dead. Still, somehow, because Oliver wants a sitcom-ready nuclear family (and for no other sensible reason, supernatural or otherwise), all four characters come back to life and assume the roles of Olivers relatives.

Theres Mitch (Hero Fiennes Tiffin, The Woman King), a selfish jock turned protective older brother, and Frank (Ben Miller, Bridgerton), a rowdy drunk who assumes the role of Olivers fuddy-duddy dad. The women in Olivers new family dont even get that much of a personality or backstory when they respectively transition from their living to their undead personalities: Susanne (Susan Wokoma, Enola Holmes), a mildly peeved airplane passenger, randomly transforms into a doting mother, and Mel (Zenobia Williams), the little girl kicking Susannes airplane seat, becomes Olivers pouting kid sister. Theres also a little zombie dog, whose decomposing body has all of the personality of a polished but unfinished animation proof of concept.

Olivers new family helps him to navigate the perils of socializing with people he doesnt quite understand, like blue-haired misfit Chloe (Tallulah Haddon, The Last Dudl) or generic bully Kurt (Jacob Sartorius) and his two equally indistinct cronies, Don (Sam Coleman) and Mark (Mitchell Zhangazha). Mitch gives Oliver advice in the style of a Tips for Teens-style checklist, presented with cheesy voiceover narration, synth cues, animation that recreates VHS tracking and instantly dated cutaway transitions. Susanne also pulls Oliver aside and, based on some good ol fashioned maternal intuition, asks him about the girl hes crushing on, even though shes never met Chloe.

Oliver inevitably learns to stand up for himself and sweep his girl off her feet at a Halloween party where most of his family members wear Alf masks. No life lessons are learned and very few jokes land, but there are plenty of opportunities for the filmmakers to remind us that theyre smarter than their chintzy material, like when Oliver tries to take a Polaroid of his pre-reanimated corpse family, whom he props up on his pink satin couch. This doesnt seem to be working, Oliver sulks. Maybe the films gone bad? Har, har, har.

Owen and Ashworth never really find the comedy in Olivers particular situation, that living with a family of decomposing strangers sure can be abnormal. Only Miller gets to do anything memorably gross, though hes never funnier than whatever his goofy character does next, like when he cant stop vomiting up Susannes cooking. That kind of one-note humors never taken far enough, so The Loneliest Boy in the World mostly bobs along without incident, never challenging viewers assumptions nor giving us much to sink our teeth into.

The Loneliest Boy in the World opens in U.S. theaters Oct. 14 and on-demand Oct. 18 via Well Go USA Entertainment.

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The Loneliest Boy in the World Review: Brainless Zombie Comedy Features Too Many Elbows to the Ribs - TheWrap

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Reviewed and Recommended by Erik Baquero
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