The new horror comedy "Tucker & Dale vs. Evil" actually has something in common with the "Harold and Kumar" trilogy. No, it's not a copious amount of marijuana, medicinal or otherwise.
The two films both shatter stereotypes with alacrity. When was the last time we saw an Asian male and his Indian sidekick pulling pranks like a couple of white college students? And, with "Tucker & Dale," how often are rednecks portrayed as a film's virtuous heroes?
[youtube vQOZHEYhVtU nolink]
"Evil," out on Blu-ray and DVD this week, pits a pair of hillbillies versus a passel of cool, well-tailored college kids. Said kids are ugly to the core, while the West Virginny types prove to be sweet and soulful right through the closing credits.
The film essentially has one joke to tell, but it survives that by giving us two very engaging characters to keep on telling it.
Tucker and Dale (Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine) want nothing more than to knock back a few brews in their new vacation retreat. OK, it's a cabin that should be condemned, but it's all theirs and they couldn't be more proud. Their tranquil is disturbed by a gang of party-hardy college students who decide to vacation near their new property.
The groups keep bumping into each other, and every time they do another student meets his or her maker in ridiculous fashion. Naturally, the students think the hillbillies are knocking them off one by one, so they declare war on the naive duo.
Some day Tudyk will get his crack at fame, but for now he keeps piling up whimsical comic turns (like his scene-stealing shtick in "Death at a Funeral"). Here, he plays a redneck who knows just enough to realize he doesn't fit in with societal norms, at least those found in the big cities. But Tudyk's character has all the faith in the world in Dale even if his lumpy pal has next to none in himself.
Labine's Dale more than makes amends for the actor's grating appearance in "A Good Old Fashioned Orgy" earlier this year. His Dale is a hard luck case with a heart as big as the great outdoors. Watching him soak in the "vacation" home is to see an appreciation for the smaller things in life that defies mockery.
"Tucker & Dale vs. Evil" represents a new breed of horror movies, one without a masked killer or ironic wink-wink appeal. The film threatens to max out its grindhouse charm mid film, but it's here where Dale's flirtation with one of the students ("30 Rock's" Katrina Bowden) gives the story new life.
"Tucker & Dale" doesn't belong in the same horror comedy pantheon as "Shaun of the Dead" or "An American Werewolf in London." Instead, it's a smart and satisfying tweak to a film industry that too often sees Southerners in a uniformly unflattering light.