First and foremost, I’ll try not to anger the [vivid] fanbase of Paul Hoen’s Z-O-M-B-I-E-S trilogy. They do exist, with some even believing that the franchise is as good as some of Disney Channel’s best musicals, on the same level as High School Musical, Camp Rock, and Descendants. But Z-O-M-B-I-E-S doesn’t even come close to any of these movies (it’s worth noting that Hoen also directed Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam) and instead has a basic story with unmemorable music and not-so-interesting character dynamics. The latest installment in the franchise, Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 3, has better musical numbers than the first two films, but the story is equally uninspired (and silly).
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At the end of Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 2, after the film desperately tried to convince everyone (and its protagonist) that Addison (Meg Donnelly) was a werewolf, aliens arrive at Seabrook and Zombietown. We finally know what occurred after their arrival, with aliens A-Lan (Matt Cornett), A-Spen (Terry Hu), and A-Li (Kyra Tantao) looking for a map that will lead them to Utopia. Of course, we’ll know more about Addison’s origins (and why her hair is white), and the reveal is so baffling that I spit out my water while watching the movie.
This all happens while Zed (Milo Manheim) attempts to be the first Zombie to get into college, breaking more barriers for the monster kind to finally be as equally accepted in society as humans and werewolves (and now aliens). And there’s also the national cheer-off, where Addison and Bucky (Trevor Tordjman…we cannot forget Bucky) teach the aliens how to cheer as they secretly look for “Instrumomo” around Seabrook.
What worked in the previous film works here, which is mostly Bucky. Tordjman plays the character with such caricatural glee that it’s hard not to appreciate what he’s doing on screen. But his character feels underused here, with him only repeating egotistical lines about why he thinks he’s the best, compared to the amount of screentime Zed, Addison, and the aliens have. Eliza (Kylee Russell) also takes a backseat, with most of her appearances being limited to a computer screen as she interns for a computer company. When your side characters, in previous installments, were better than your protagonists, you can’t reduce their roles to the very minimum but expand on their arcs. Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 3 expands on the aspects that didn’t work in the first two films and turns a pivotal lingering plot point into an embarrassing reveal.
It’s a huge problem when Donnelly & Manheim have little chemistry together as Addison and Zed when they’re the main leads of the movie. But an ounce of emotional connection they have feels faked, mainly when the big reveal happens. The lines are serious enough, but none of the leads can deliver them in a way that feels genuine or have some weight to them. It comes off as incredibly silly and unintentionally hilarious, as when Addison said to Bucky, “this is not about politics, I always just felt like cheer could unite” in Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 2.
I don’t want to spoil the big reveal, but one could say that it’s even more ridiculous than the Werewolf bit in Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 2. That being said, it leads to the best musical number of the entire franchise, with the catchiest song. “Nothing but love” feels like the only time Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 3 is on the same aesthetic (and musical) wavelength as the Camp Rocks and the High School Musicals that defined a generation. They certainly defined mine, as I was a child when both of these franchises were released on the Disney Channel. I don’t know which generation the Z-O-M-B-I-E-S trilogy will define, but it certainly hasn’t given me the same impression I had while watching the High School Musical trilogy. Heck, the third High School Musical film was released in theatres. That’s how big of a phenomenon it was.
Moving Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 3 from the Disney Channel to Disney+ increased its production value and delivered livelier musical numbers. But the story is more of the same. It’s a paint-by-numbers, predictable “new threat arrives to Seabrook that no one understands, but the humans, zombies, and werewolves ultimately learn to accept them” that we’ve seen before in the first and second Z-O-M-B-I-E-S film. Recycling your plot would’ve been passable had you figured out fresher ways to present aliens arriving at Seabrook and having to endure the same beats as Zombies and Werewolves did in the previous installments. Still, Hoen and writers David Light and Joseph Raso go in sillier directions than in the last two movies. Because of this, Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 3 is as bad of a film as the first one was, though it is marginally better than whatever the hell the second movie was.
In terms of the entire trilogy, Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 3 is the best, by default, because of its musical numbers, but everything else is on the same level as the previous installments. So if you’re looking for a Disney Channel trilogy of films to watch, stick to the classics. You won’t be disappointed and will undoubtedly have a better time than enduring Z-O-M-B-I-E-S. I did not gar gar ga za this franchise, and the franchise did not gar gar ga za me back. That’s all I can say.
Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 3 is now streaming on Disney+.
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