Steven Spielberg has worked across every conceivable genre in a long and distinguished career and yet it’s impossible to hear the adjective “Spielbergian” without conjuring a family-friendly teenage actioner from the 1980s. That’s certainly the blueprint for the PG adventure of Love and Monsters, a post-apocalyptic fantasy that makes a dystopian future blighted by genetically mutated beasties look like good clean fun. In a self-deprecating, lightly snarky voiceover, Joel (Teen Wolf’s Dylan O’Brien) glosses over the millions of lives lost from the fallout created by anti-asteroid missiles, and alights on his present predicament: he’s a lonely, weedy minestrone-maker in an underground colony of survivors, a group composed of Joel, a cow named Gertie, and buff, loved-up warrior couples. After a crisis in the colony bunker, Joel embarks on a crazy mission to walk across monster-infested terrain for 80 miles to the colony where Aimee (Jessica Henwick), the girlfriend he hasn’t seen in seven years, lives.
Along the way, he encounters cartoonishly unscary monsters with such comical names as Sand Gobblers, creations that are complemented by Joel’s own cute monster drawings. Joel, who remains ungainly with weapons, receives welcome assistance from an excellent dog named Boy, veteran human survivor Clyde (Michael Rooker), and Clyde’s plucky eight-year-old travelling companion Minnow (winning newcomer Ariana Greenblatt).
The creatures may be all-ages fun, but the cannibalisation of everything from Zombieland to The Goonies is almost audibly chewy. Screenwriters Brian Duffield (Underwater, Jane’s Got a Gun) and Matthew Robinson (The Invention of Lying) have crafted a ruthlessly efficient, if entirely generic, script. The sleekness of the product is amplified by Marco Beltrami and Marcus Trumpp’s frothy score and Lachlan Milne’s (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) pretty camerawork. It’s fortunate that Dylan O’Brien has just enough goofy charm to hold all the plundered Build-a-Bear bits together. On Netflix from April 16