“Maggie” may have sounded like a fun idea on paper, but as the Tribeca Film Festival audience found out Wednesday night at the film’s world premiere, its execution leaves a lot to be desired.
It’s a zombie melodrama where nothing really happens. The film opens with NPR radio vaguely explaining how a viral outbreak has started turning people into zombies. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Wade, father of the titular Maggie (Abigail Breslin), who learns the hard way that there are rules laid out about quarantines and how to deal with an infected loved one, as his daughter has already been bitten prior to the opening scene.
“Maggie” chugs along at a snail’s pace and there is absolutely zero payoff for its immense amount of set-up. Everything is so bleak and brooding, which would be fine if there was some actual weight to it — all we get is broad strokes of impending doom and melancholic solilioques. You know how some horror movies have eerily quiet moments, where the tension builds and builds until something crazy happens? That’s “Maggie” in its entireity, except it never builds to anything.
The film is supposed to be an emotional, character-driven drama, but there’s never a reason for the audience to care. There’s no hook. The audience is thrown into the (lack of) action with no character or world building. The movie is decidedly more “melodrama” than “zombie,” and there are only a couple of “action” moments in which Arnie takes on the dead. Most of the screentime is used to show close ups of Schwarzenegger looking pensive, pondering what to do in his tough situation.
Simply put, Schwarzenegger has never been some Academy Award worthy thespian — he’s an over-the-top action hero. Just because “Maggie” puts some pain behind his eyes and a tear on his cheek doesn’t suddenly make him a dramatic force. A majority of the movie is Arnold meandearing around, frowning, often not even saying anything. When dialogue does actually make it out of his mouth, you will wish it hadn’t; it’s painful to watch him try to emote. He has the subtly of an 18-wheeler.
Unfortunately, “Maggie” makes the case for Schwarzenegger sticking to what he knows. There’s a reason he has yet to star in something this “heavy” — he simply can’t pull off the material. Breslin is fine as the zombified girl, but there’s not much for her to do her, either. She just mopes around, dealing with her own mortality, and the role just doesn’t allow her the chance to really transcend it.
Some are already calling “Maggie” a “slow burn,” but in order to burn, something needs to have been ignited in the first place.
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