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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Warm Bodies Movie Review


The zombie genre gets dug up and warmed over as a romantic comedy with "Warm Bodies." Directed by Jonathan Levine (who also wrote the screenplay adapted from the Isaac Marion novel) this "zom-com" has heart and, fortunately for zombies, some brains too.

R (Nicholas Hoult) is not just another post-apocalyptic zombie, or "corpse." He still has a hidden humanity about him, and narrates his thoughts, often humorously, while his body grunts and shuffles aimlessly through the airport he calls home. "Why can't I connect with people?" he wonders, like any self-conscious teenager.

How did the world reach this state? The movie doesn't directly say, and conveniently doesn't have to. The narrator, like the other zombies, doesn't remember. R can't even remember his name, except that it begins with "R." And he has nobody to talk to, aside from his friend M (Rob Corddry). Their one-word conversations are typically "Hungry" and "Eat."


R encounters Julie (Teresa Palmer) as she forages for supplies with a group of fellow survivalist humans. Fortunately, it's love at first sight, not love at first bite. Unfortunately, her boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco) is not so lucky. R protects Julie from the other zombies and hides her away in his private airplane. Normally that would impress a girl, but being undead works against him. Also working against him is Julie's dad, General Grigio (John Malkovich), who is dedicated to killing all zombies. Grigio's single-mindedness makes him more of a zombie than the sensitive R.

"Warm Bodies" does make a few fresh deviations from standard zombie logic. These zombies can see their victims' memories after eating their brains. It makes them feel alive and even gives them hope. Zombies that have "given up all hope" are called Bonies, and have stripped off their own flesh to become animated skeletons. The FX dept. seems to likewise have given up hope, as the discount computer-generated Bonies are as retro as the movie's soundtrack.

The rest of the movie, despite its unconventional setup, is a by-the-book story of star-crossed, forbidden love. "Romeo and Juliet" is paid obvious homage to by R and Julie. There's even a humorous, and much less verbal, balcony scene.

Horror and Romance make strange bedfellows, and "Warm Bodies" is ultimately a mismatched couple dancing to different tunes, neither knowing which should take the lead. Plot holes and inconsistencies are smiled away much like the "Twilight" franchise pouted them away. Still, it's hard to resist the movie's simple message of love, which is as contagious as a zombie plague.

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