Friday, 5 August 2016

Daddy, I'm a Zombie 2: Dixie Saves the Day! (Mummy, I'm a Zombie / Dixie and the Zombie Rebellion) - review

2014 (Spain)

Contains mild spoilers.

I may not have been the target audience for the cutesy zombiefied animated coming of age drama Daddy, I'm a Zombie, what with its focus on girlfriends, boyfriends and the hardships of teen life at a time the world was moments away from total undead subjugation. But it was hard not to acknowledge the tight cohesive moral story, the imaginative but respectful adaptation of the zombie trope for children and the solid if not spectacular production. It was what it was, and as a rainy school holiday movie treat it satisfied my zombie urge and delighted the littlens, and you can see why they moved for a sequel.

Daddy, I'm a Zombie was a complete story; threads weren't left hanging, the moral message was delivered, the foes metaphorically and physically if one believes Dixie Grimm's (voiced in English by Kimberely Wharton) dream was real were vanquished and everything was left happy ever after. It was always going to be a hard task to fashion a second outing that provided the necessary fan service and call backs, as well as an original and coherent story so perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised Daddy, I'm a Zombie 2 (UK title) aka Mummy, I'm a Zombie (USA), aka Dixie and the Zombie Rebellion as it was titled everywhere else (trans. Dixie y la rebelión zombi) does indeed ultimately struggle.

Daddy, I'm a Zombie followed a simple formula. Dixie has an accident, enters a self-contained dream world, has an exciting quest, and in the process learns some things about herself; it's a successful, intelligent and effortless The Wizard of Oz retelling. But just because something works once doesn't mean it will again. From the start Daddy, I'm a Zombie 2 has that feeling of a film at odds with itself. A film that doesn't really know what it wants to be, content to stutter and trip its way through a convoluted and incoherent premise and story, through to thoroughly unsatisfying ending, that was probably as much a relief to all involved as it is the viewer. And that's the main crux. Daddy, I'm a Zombie 2 has that feel of a film everyone thought would easily fall together but which became increasingly strained and difficult to work with. It's like someone jotted down a rough story and a few ideas which all agreed would probably be good enough, then realising things weren't going so well kept hammering at it till what was left was an incongruent mess; utterly unidentifiable.

Dixie's accident is now a contrived emergency appendix operation and the anaesthetic her gateway back to the zombie-land, her story some convoluted lazy rehash of the first, of the evil Nebulosa (Karen McCarthy) and a quest to recharge the Azoth stone, and the moral message some missed opportunity to do with authenticity and superficiality. I say zombie-land; for some reason directors Ricardo Ramón and Beñat Beitia have decided to ditch the rich alien world instead opting for the real one, but allowing the zombies, skeletons, ghosts and ghoulies of the first free reign to move back and forth. They've also allowed Dixie to remain alive and human, disappointingly overlooking one of the delights of the first film; that shared journey with her slowly learning and accepting she was not only a zombie but probably dead. It's like the easy option was taken each and every time; and though if I'm being kind I can see what they may have been trying to achieve, the film loses much of its identity by not having the clear demarcation and by not exploring her subtle and nuanced struggle with mortality. I'll briefly mention a real zombie bite and infection, and an interesting escalation in the safe child friendly proceedings which could have had deeply exciting and curious connotations if explored, which again was squandered.

Now it would be very easy to brand Daddy, I'm a Zombie 2, a cheap cash-in; an effortless insipid direct to DVD production put together by committee with no real passion, but I do have to remember I'm not the target audience. Garnering the thoughts of my two willing co-conspirators didn't help its case though; the youngest providing neither a thumbs up or thumbs down and the eldest lampooning it for its insultingly inconsistent and simple plot. For a film about authenticity and having the courage to be honest, it's ironic too, that its biggest weakness was incorrectly diagnosing adherence to the formula as the franchises strength, rather than Dixie's real and identifiable personal and emotional journey, and thinking as long as it superficially forced this, all would be good. A real missed opportunity - 3/10.


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