'Maggie': What the Critics Are Saying

Henry Hobson's post-apocalyptic indie stars Abigail Breslin as a teenager-turned-zombie, and Arnold Schwarzenegger as her father who debates killing her himself.

Maggie stars Abigail Breslin as a teenager affected with a lethal virus that slowly transforms her into a dangerous zombie — a process that has her father, Arnold Schwarzenegger, debating whether he should send her away to a quarantine unit, give her a medicine that painfully prolongs her progress or kill her himself.

Distributed by Lionsgate, the post-apocalyptic drama marks director Henry Hobson's feature debut and Schwarzenegger's first foray into indie film. It also features Joely Richardson and Rachel Whitman Groves.

Read More Inside Schwarzenegger's First Indie, 'Maggie': A Restrained, Stoic, Gentle Arnold

See what top critics are saying about Maggie:

The Hollywood Reporter's John DeFore says that Hobson "does the genre mashup thing without an ounce of tongue-in-cheek attitude. ... While Hobson's smarts are evident here, the picture's uniformly dim visuals and sometimes overplayed sound design are static enough to do a disservice to his work with the cast. In his effort to ensure we take the characters' suffering seriously, he seems loath to offer us any kind of sensory pleasure. That's not what we might expect from the designer who brought our senses to life during an otherwise monotonous Oscar ceremony, any more than a serious dramatic turn is what we expect from the Governator." Though Schwarzenegger "acquits himself respectably as a father tending to his dying daughter (let us thank Walter Von Huene, listed in the credits as his drama coach), his presence sends signals that this will be a fan boy-only affair."

USA Today's Claudia Puig calls it "a thought-provoking blend of post-apocalyptic thriller, teen weeper and horror flick, infused with more intelligence and humanism than that description might imply," as "Breslin does a great job in the role. Her portrayal conveys the range of feelings flooding through her, including the vestiges of romance with another infected teen. ... It's refreshing to see Schwarzenegger step out of his Teutonic tough-guy mode. He's careworn and torn up, exhausted and quiet, but powerfully principled. It's his best performance in years. What makes this a tale that transcends the zombie genre is the notion of a parent wanting to protect a child, while knowing she could become a threat to society. What this movie does best is present characters with nuanced reactions, such as Maggie's stepmother, Caroline (Richardson), who is both loving and nervously watchful. The film sometimes looks stylized, which is distracting."

Time Out New York's David Ehrlich notes it "does for coping with terminal illness what Dawn of the Dead did for consumerism, the difference here being that Hobson isn’t interested in satire, only sadness. ... Hobson resists the temptation to spice things up with more traditional scares, and the film never allows its ghoulish window dressing to overwhelm the simple story of a father losing his oldest child. Here, zombies aren’t a metaphor so much as a Trojan horse for the kind of grim domestic drama that would never be greenlit unless disguised as something else. Schwarzenegger’s biggest contribution to the project may have been getting it financed, but he’s never been as vulnerable as he is in the scenes between Wade and Maggie. Breslin is likewise strong, but the film dilutes its emotion by splitting its focus between the two main characters rather then honing in on either one of them."

Read More Watch a Zombie Abigail Breslin Taunt Arnold Schwarzenegger in 'Maggie' Trailer (Video)

The New York Times' Manohla Dargis notes, "Zombies, Schwarzenegger and a certain Terrence Malick je ne sais quoi — what could go wrong? More or less everything in this low-budget head-scratcher and periodic knee-slapper. ... Despite its horror-film backdrop and chomp-chomp flashbacks, Maggie turns out to be a deliberately paced and played drama about a family coping with a fatal disease. It’s a sad story, or would be if the zombie apocalypse backdrop — and the inky splotches creeping across Maggie’s body — didn’t wreak such havoc with the movie’s unsmiling sincerity."

The Guardian's Jordan Hoffman notes that Schwarzenegger "really has no business making a drama. I give the odd, small film Maggie all the points in the world for experimenting with genre-blending and subverting audience expectations, but there’s just too much about it that fails to connect. ... The moments when Arnold just has to look like a lion with a thorn in his paw work okay, but when he’s got dialogue to deliver, well, that’s when you realise why he’s never done heavier material like this before. Maggie is lacking in action, so must rely on its performances to succeed. The casting certainly makes it notable as a curiosity, but as cinema it’s the hobbling dead."

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