“Warm Bodies” is the new poster child for the age-old “opposites attract” proverb, bringing the walking dead and the human heart together to form a decent outcome that will surprise moviegoers expecting rejection at first sight. I’m going to be frank here: I never supported “Warm Bodies” from the moment I heard about it. The very premise behind the film — a zombie love story — seemed too preposterous and hollow to be true, not to mention resembled a weak punch line to an already lame joke.
If anything, I was under the impression this project was just another spawn of “Twilight.” As it turns out, though, “Warm Bodies” is the complete opposite of what I originally assumed.
Based on the novel by Isaac Marion, “Warm Bodies” revolves around the relationship development between R (Nicholas Hoult) and Julie (Teresa Palmer). R happens to be one of the few zombies capable of thought and, on the rare occasion with his friend M (Rob Corddry), rudimentary speech.
After R consumes a young man’s brain and absorbs the memories within, he saves Julie, the victim’s girlfriend, from becoming zombie chow. The eventual relationship between the two sets in motion a series of events that might affect the entire world.
It would be easy to get lost in the romance and forget about the zombies, and vice versa.
Fortunately, director Jonathan Levine strikes a balance between the love story and zombie world with what appears to be little effort to the point where the end result never gets bogged down by either element. Such a task might seem impossible at first, but as proven in “Warm Bodies,” even the unlikeliest of unions can flourish.
What grants “Warm Bodies” immunity from the “Twilight” curse is the development of an actual relationship between the two leads.
The chemistry between Hoult and Palmer’s characters never feels forced or one-sided, and at least their interpersonal interactions don’t border on either predatory or abusive. In fact, I can safely say their romance is one that the audience will enjoy, find amusing, and most important of all, relate to.
A key to the film’s comedic side lies within its use of extensive voiceover to convey R’s thoughts. The self-deprecating humor inherent in the dialogue imbues what is already an unusual twist on the genre with a sense of irony, which will elicit laughs from those looking for something new to reinvigorate the zombie genre. Include an eclectic soundtrack that enhances the humor and establishes a stabilizing tone to allow R and Julie’s relationship to progress, and you have sufficient entertainment.
As always, you can’t have a zombie film if there aren’t zombies doing what they do best to please audiences: scrounge around for human brains to eat.
There is no shortage of shocking carnage inflicted by R and his undead comrades, regardless of the PG-13 rating. A new kind of excitement appears in the form of “Bonies”— CG skeletal zombies that resemble a cross between the Grim Reaper and the Terminator.
There’s no doubt in my mind that “Warm Bodies” belongs to Nicholas Hoult; the film could’ve never defied audience expectations without him playing the lead role. His embodiment of R is so nuanced that you actually believe he is a reanimated corpse, all the while learning about the emotion called love. Teresa Palmer captures the empathy and toughness of Julie without becoming too much of either a woman warrior or a damsel-in-distress. Her presence helps to humanize our zombie protagonist, something that would not have been possible had he been left to anchor the film by himself.
Rob Corddry enlivens “Warm Bodies” with his role of M, whether it is his attempts to communicate or the evolution he experiences not unlike that of R’s.
Both Dave Franco and Analeigh Tipton have their fair share of meaningful moments as Perry and Nora, respectively. Oscar nominee John Malkovich makes the most of his limited screen time, demonstrating that the “less is more” principle works to his benefit when portraying the stone-faced General Grigio.
Still think zombies and love don’t mix? You might want to reconsider when you realize just how much of a pleasant surprise “Warm Bodies” is.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for zombie violence and some language.
Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes
Playing: General release
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