‘Attack the Block': Giant Feral Chia Pets Gone Wild

British monster mash is equal parts funny and entertaining and even offers some genuine scares

 

If you’re hungering to see creatures from outer space on a movie screen this weekend but find the lines too long for the much-hyped “Cowboys & Aliens,” consider “Attack the Block.”

This spunky, low-budget British action-comedy proves once again that a smart script can breath new life into even the most tired of subjects.

“Block” does just that, freshening the alien invasion formula by making its heroes a group of ethnically diverse, would-be tough teenagers who live in a London housing project in a gritty neighborhood.

Early on, their attempt to rob a nurse (Jodie Whittaker) walking home from her shift is interrupted when a mysterious furry creature suddenly appears and hurtles past. The boys think at first that it’s a dog; they give chase, kill the creature and triumphantly bear it home, storing it for safety in the apartment of their building’s drug dealer (Nick Frost of “Shaun of the Dead”).

And that’s when trouble starts. Ever greater numbers of the creatures, but bigger and fuzzier than the first one and baring sharp, snapping choppers that glow neon blue in the dark, begin stalking and chasing after the boys and anyone else who comes close.

First-time director-writer Joe Cornish (a comedian known in England for starring in TV’s “The Adam and Joe Show,” where he frequently spoofed major films by reenacting them using stuffed animals) is careful to give each of the youths a distinct personality and reveal the scared kids beneath the tough guy posturing.

As for the creatures, they’re ferociously feral, but also amusing because they look like so much like overgrown chia pets gone wild.

While it’s equal parts funny and entertaining and even offers some genuine scares, “Block” also manages to give viewers a chance to really get to know its young heroes, who at first seem to be the kind of kids most people would either cross the street to avoid or would simply ignore.

And the boys themselves begin to understand, after seeking medical help from the nurse whom they had tried to rob earlier and joining forces with her against the creatures, that there just may be a wider world out there beyond their familiar streets.

All of which contribute to make this a “Block” worth visiting.    

Note: As with “Trainspotting” and so many other British films featuring characters who speak a somewhat rougher version of the Queen’s English, it takes about five minutes for an American ear to adjust to the lingual flow while watching “Block.”