Read Tim Anderson’s review:
As Bert “Sock” Wysocki, the spaced-out slacker sidekick in The CW’s prematurely canceled Reaper, Tyler Labine flat stole enough scenes to build a respectable cult following. His laid back attitude, complete with his fingers-overlaced-over-belly Buddha posture, renders his somewhat unvaried movie and TV characters dependably likeable. With his recent cameo in Zach and Miri Make a Porno, along with the starring role in the upcoming FOX series Sons of Tucson, Labine has somehow managed to transform the Reaper axe-job into a promising career move. He also stars as a love-struck redneck, alongside fellow hillbilly Alan Tudyk, in the indie horror-comedy Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, which I caught at a midnight Sundance screening.
Rookie director/screenwriter Eli Craig, along with co-writer Morgan Jurgenson, have come up with a high-concept premise that is practically oozing the promise of broad, gooey comedy. When a group of camping college kids begin to die gruesome but entirely accidental deaths, a wheelbarrow-load of contrivance and circumstance collide to make Appalachian rednecks Tucker and Dale (Tudyk and Labine) appear to be the psycho-inbred killers. The compounding misunderstandings provide a few laughs, especially in the early going. In one scene, Tucker cuts into a wasp’s nest while chainsawing a fallen log just as the college kids hesitantly approach his cabin. Swarmed by wasps, Tucker hollers and runs around panic-stricken, his chainsaw flailing over his head Leatherface-style. Which of course causes the college kids to run screaming into the woods. The easily-impressed Sundance audience howled in abject pleasure.
But as the film wore on, it became more and more obvious that Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil was 30 minutes of material stretched into an unconscionably long 86 minutes. Deviating from the comedy-of-errors wackiness of the first half, the second half explores the tentative, snooze-inducing relationship between Dale and college girl Allison (Katrina Bowden, Tina Fey’s hot assistant on 30 Rock, super bland here). By the time 1:30 a.m. rolled around, I could tell that the previously enraptured audience had begun to lose interest. With the basic narrative hinged on just a handful of funny set-pieces, the movie tried to wring a few third-reel laughs from arch-villain Chad, the douchey, asthmatic, popped-collar leader of the college kids, but it all ended up tasting like oatmeal filler in a supposedly all-beef cheeseburger.
In their defense, both Labine and Tudyk seemed to be having a good time, just two charismatic young dudes breezing through a three-week indie shoot…at the very least, they did the very best with what they had to work with. It’s hard to tell why the comic timing was off at times, but it’s a problem that seemed to originate from the other side of the camera. The editing was occasionally jarring and some scenes stretched on for way too long, rookie mistakes that will almost certainly be corrected in the future. I’ll always remember the brief, resonant image of Tyler Labine leaning against a pick-up truck and eating from an enormous jar of pickled eggs, but the film as a whole will be easy to forget.