Aubrey Plaza, the ideal typecast for playing a female zombie, is, surprisingly the worst part about Jeff Baena's second film in ten years since writing I Heart Huckabees, Life After Beth. And yet, there is a slight glimpse of thematic brilliance regarding the subjects of regret and how it is affected by second chances and the notion that one was better off getting it right on their first chance.
As our momentarily alive and well protagonist, Beth Slocum (Plaza), is introduced in the first few moments of the film, she seems peaceful and calm while doing what we later learn is one of her favorite suburban pastimes: going on a hike. We then cut to an immediate mourning scene, barely getting a chance to know what the undead version of Beth was like. All we know now is that her boyfriend, Zach Orfman (Dane DeHaan), and her parents, Maury (John C. Reilly) and Geenie (Molly Shannon), are in extreme pain over losing her--though the loss is very temporary.
After spending almost every waking moment with Beth's parents in order to feel mildly consoled not only by her death, but also by confessing to Maury that Beth said she wanted to see other people before she died, he is caught off guard when his contact with them is abruptly cut off. Investigating the situation, he goes over to their house only to catch an unexpected glimpse of Beth. Before he can do anything about it, however, he is caught by his brother, Kyle (Matthew Gray Gubler), a security officer who patrols the neighborhood. It isn't long before Zach manages to sneak back over there and confirm that Beth is, indeed, alive.
Relieved at being able to get another chance with her, Zach is just a little bit more perplexed than Beth's parents about why she's back from the dead. Her parents, on the other hand, prefer to not acknowledge that anything out of the ordinary has happened, least of all to Beth herself. In spite of Zach's hesitancy about not questioning why Beth is back, he ends up going along with her family's alternate reality in order to be with the version of her that seems blissfully unaware of all that's happened between them. And at first, this turn of events goes swimmingly--until Beth begins acting far crankier, quelled only by the sound of smooth jazz.
Her temper is further aggravated when she catches Zach in the parking lot of a restaurant where he was having lunch with a childhood friend named Erica (Anna Kendrick). Nearly ripping Erica's arm off in response to her presence, Zach leads her away to finally confess what's really been going on this whole time by taking her back to her gravestone. The revelation of her death further infuriates Beth, who, to add insult to injury, is then broken up with by Zach. This sets off an entire chain reaction of zombie emergences throughout the town.
It is at this juncture in the film that things start to jump the shark a bit and Jeff Baena seems to lose sight of what his original message really was. Unlike other recent zombie movies, such as Warm Bodies or Jennifer's Body, Life After Beth lacks the same camp cachet that tends to bolster this genre. Instead, it comes off as flaccid and missing the mark on what it wanted to say, which seems to be, as one of the tag lines clichely puts it: be careful what you wish for.