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What’s that I see, out on the crowded August movie horizon? It’s a zom-rom-com: “Life After Beth,” in which Aubrey Plaza (“Safety Not Guaranteed”), that master of the pouty deadpan, plays the zom in question. Beth has died, to the dismay of her boyfriend Zach (Dane DeHaan), parents (John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon) and friends — but, not long after the funeral, she mysteriously returns, looking much like herself but, shall we say, undead around the edges.

The problem here is the very long, staggering shadow cast by “Shaun of the Dead.” The British comedy, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, is the very model of what a zom-rom-com should be; “Life After Beth,” in contrast, only works sporadically. Writer/director Jeff Baena finds some wit — zombies, we learn, are fond of attics and smooth jazz — and his lively cast seems game for anything. (I loved Shannon, as Beth’s mom, insisting “Everything’s normal! This just … happened!” while trying to explain her daughter’s recovery from death.) But the movie runs out of steam, though not blood, long before it’s over. You find yourself wishing Shaun and his pals would pop round — and that this story of the undead had a little more life.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

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