Armed with an inherently irresistible premise, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil, in its early stages, comes off as an entertaining and frequently hilarious comedy that affectionately pokes fun at the slasher genre – with the increasingly conventional nature of Eli Craig and Morgan Jurgenson’s script ultimately (and unfortunately) draining the film of its energy and effectiveness. The storyline follows affable hillbillies Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) as they’re mistaken for blood-thirsty maniacs by a rowdy group of college kids, with the movie subsequently detailing the wacky misunderstandings that inevitably ensue as Tucker and Dale attempt to clear up the situation. There’s little doubt that Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil benefits substantially from the palpable chemistry between Tudyk and Labine’s respective characters, as filmmaker Craig admittedly does take his time in getting things going – with the movie hitting its stride once the aforementioned college kids first encounter the titular duo. Craig and Jurgenson have packed this stretch with a number of laugh-out-loud funny misunderstandings and mixups (eg Tucker’s efforts at swatting away bees with a chainsaw are understandably taken as a sign of aggression by one of the kids), with the agreeably over-the-top atmosphere persisting right up until around the film’s halfway mark – after which point Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil slowly but surely eschews its comedic sensibilities in favor of a distressingly familiar and routine sort of vibe (ie the movie becomes the very thing it had been spoofing). By the time the action-packed, thoroughly tedious climax rolls around, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil has established itself as a missed opportunity of disappointingly epic proportions – which is too bad, certainly, given the strength of its setup and early scenes.
** out of ****