Director: Jonathan Levine
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Hollywood’s given us
a few memorable movies narrated by corpses—Sunset Boulevard and Reversal
of Fortune among them—but not one narrated by a zombie corpse, and
certainly never in a warm, fuzzy, likeable romantic-comedy-of-the-living-dead
the likes of Warm Bodies.
Based on a smart and edgy novel by Isaac
Marion, adapted and directed for the screen by Jonathan Levine (50/50),
the love story plays out against the backdrop of a dystopian future post–zombie
apocalypse, a world in which tough, ever-wary survivors live in walled cities
beyond which prowl hungry hordes of the undead, who spend their hours hunting
and meandering endlessly through such locales as a deserted airport.
those lost souls face constant competition and warfare with Bonies, the most
craven, devolved and voracious of all members of the zombie nation. We’re meant
to think of these warring zombie factions as Montagues and Capulets or, if you
like, Sharks and Jets because Warm Bodies is littered with allusions to Romeo
and Juliet. Naturally, the movie gives us star-crossed young lovers—they
even get a balcony scene. There’s a funny, self-deprecating, lonely zombie
named “R” (Nicholas Hoult) who develops an unlikely crush on “Julie” (Teresa
Palmer) after he and his gang slaughter a few of her friends during a hunt for
medical supplies. After R devours the brains of Julie’s boyfriend (Dave
Franco), he kidnaps her and spirits her back to his home in an abandoned
airplane where he shows her kindness and plays her love songs on vinyl. Yep,
you’re supposed to make The Phantom of the Opera let alone Beauty
and the Beast connections.
Warm Bodies is the kind of end of
the world movie in which an airport’s power grid still functions, humans find
time and materials to wall in their cities and Polaroid cameras are still
hanging around, but, hey, if you’re looking for logic, remember: this thing’s a
zombie movie, for Pete’s sake. Anyway, our lovebirds’ sweet little affair sends
them rushing to Julie’s military leader father (John Malkovich, in an MIA
performance) to try and convince him that the zombies (including R’s
Mercutio-like friend “M,” played by Rob Corddry) are not only regaining their
powers of speech and empathy but also their humanity, leading to a human-zombie
kickass kumbaya and an
all-out war to defeat the really, truly, definitely dead Bonies.
Okay, so maybe the messages of peace, love and tolerance get hit overly insistently, but at least Hoult and Palmer are pretty and charming, if lacking in heat or passion. Anyway, they’re certainly more fun to watch than those two flatliners in the Twilight movies. Corddry, who usually tries way too hard, is really good, scoring a couple of big laughs, and the film’s wry running commentary on contemporary life as already detached, robotic and zombified is fun, if more economically explored in Shaun of the Dead. The whole movie has a winning whimsy, let alone some terrific use of tunes by Bon Iver, M83 and Bruce Springsteen, among others.