I’ve reviewed movies for almost two decades now, but this will be a first for me as I’ll conditionally endorse a movie I didn’t like.
It’s unusual, but Warm Bodies easily fits that category as it’s about a zombie falling for a human teen girl. For those who gleefully go along with the premise, the film is surprisingly touching and hilariously funny.
Those reared on a steady entertainment diet of playing Resident Evil video games and watching The Walking Dead, like me, probably can’t buy into a zombie romantic comedy. Especially when the zombie kills his crush’s boyfriend and eats his brains.
That was when the film, based off Isaac Marion’s novel, with a healthy dose of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, lost me.
R (Nicholas Hoult, X-Men: First Class) is a zombie like much of the world save a barricaded city under the command of Grigio (John Malkovich). R aimlessly moves through an airport he’s surrounded by his fellow undead, like his pal, M (the MVP of modern supporting actors, Rob Corddry).
Hoult is an exceptional zombie conveying a vast array of emotions without breaking character so he spends most of the movie with a slight hunch, vacant stare and exaggerated movements. It’s a better performance than the film needed, to Hoult’s credit.
Director/Writer Jonathan Levine (50/50) puts us in R’s head as he tries to remember his previous life. Levine offers a creative explanation as to why zombies eat brains; it allows them to experience their victim’s memories and feel alive again.
It’s enough to almost make them sympathetic characters, if you know, they weren’t killing people. There’s a creepier zombie race of those who peeled off their skin to reveal their bones.
Their CGI work of the Bonies is sketchy at times, but they convey the intended threat. Levine tries to stay faithful to zombie rules — they crave flesh, travel in packs and are fairly non-communicative — in a nice winking analogy to modern teens, but occasionally twists some to work/cheat within the film.
The first major instance being when R spots Julie (Teresa Palmer, I Am Number Four), traveling with some fellow teens on a supply raid, and instead of wanting to eat her (just no good way to say that, is it?) he’s smitten and uses his limited vocabulary to convince her she’s safe with him.
Palmer looks so much like a blonde Kristen Stewart that it’s distracting. It doesn’t help that she plays Julie as Bella-lite after being an efficient bullet to the head zombie killer in her initial encounter with R’s zombie horde.
The star-crossed lovers angle is a bit obvious — R(omeo) and Julie(t) — but in case you missed it Levine helpfully adds in a balcony scene for you. With R and Julie’s bond strengthening, it starts triggering a larger response as the zombies start begin changing, prompting a full-scale Boney revolt. This didn’t work for me either as the Bonies should encourage this if for no other reason than to expand their buffet selection.
I loved the soundtrack even while I had my issues with the story, but if you think a zombie romantic comedy sounds awesome, you’ll love it. For the rest of us, new episodes of Rick, Carl and the gang start Feb. 10.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Wenk/Summit Entertainment