No Pride, Lots of Zombies

Jane Austen has proved to be one of the most durable authors of modern times, judging by how many adaptations, extrapolations, and rip-offs of her work have been filmed over the past thirty years. Who would dream that a movie called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies would be the dullest one of all?

Even the adaptation of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (based on a mashup novel by the same author, Seth Grahame-Smith) had more going for it than this tiresome film, written and directed by Burr Steers. The premise, laid out in a handsome but tedious title sequence, is that England has been invaded by an army of zombies who threaten to decimate the landscape and its population. That includes the Bennet family, headed by Charles Dance (in a thankless role), and its four sisters, led by headstrong Elizabeth (Lily James). Like her siblings, Elizabeth has had martial arts training and is right handy with a sword. And in keeping with Austen tradition, she takes an instant dislike to a newcomer known as Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley).

James is quite likable and surrounded by a competent cast, including Bella Heathcote, Jack Huston, Lena Headey (sporting an eyepatch), and Matt Smith, who adds welcome comedy relief as a socially inept parson with designs on the eldest Bennet sister.

But Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is neither fish nor fowl: neither gruesome or inventive enough to rank as a good horror film nor witty enough to do justice to the usually indestructible Jane Austen. I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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May 2024