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LIFE AFTER BETH: 3 STARS. “breaths life into the dead-on-arrival rom com genre.”

life-after-beth-3A few years ago the rom com was almost dead, gasping for air as formulaic stories stock characters squeezed whatever romance or comedy was left in the creaking old bones of the genre.

“Life After Beth,” a zombie rom com, aims to breath some life back into the dead-on-arrival category that gave us “Because I Said So” and “Fool’s Gold.”

“Parks and Rec” star Aubrey Plaza is Beth, a teenager who passes away in the film’s opening minutes. Her passing devastates her parents (Molly Shannon, Michael C. Reilly) and boyfriend Zack (Dane DeHaan) but the mourning is short lived when Beth comes back from the dead with the idea to resume her “life.” She has no idea she’s shuffled off this mortal coil, but the new life she has with mom, dad and Zack soon starts to disintegrate. Literally.

“Life After Beth” offers up something a different and a little scary. Beth’s return from the dead works quite brilliantly as a metaphor on the strong feelings that typify teenage love. A beak up can feel like a death, or perhaps the person you’re with turns into a monster. Either way, there’s more subtext here than in all of Katherine Heigl’s movies put together.

But subtext isn’t very romantic or funny, but “Life After Beth” is both. The relationship between Zack and Beth is quite sweet and the situation is absurd, which leads to comedy, but never so absurd that the underlying emotion gets lost.

Plaza plays both sides of Beth, the sweet young girl she once was and the monster she’s turning into. It’s her performance that saves the movie from being a “Fido” or “Shawn of the Dead” clone.

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