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'Warm Bodies' Movie Review

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating

By

'Warm Bodies' movie poster
© Summit
Zombie romantic comedies ("zom rom coms") aren't new -- see Shaun of the Dead, Dance of the Dead, Boy Eats Girl and so forth -- but few tell the story from the zombie's point of view. (Colin, a microbudget British effort from a few years ago, did, but it could hardly be considered a comedy.) In to fill the void is Warm Bodies, a lighthearted adaptation of a 2011 Isaac Marion novel of the same name.

The Plot

In the midst of a global zombie apocalypse, residents of an unspecified metropolitan area have walled themselves inside the city while the living dead shamble outside in search of living victims to eat. One such undead is R (Nicholas Hoult), a teen (or thereabouts) who hangs around the nearby airport. As we learn through his voiceover, there's more going on inside his mind than he and his fellow zombies are able to enunciate -- for instance, he can recall only the first letter of his name, and he misses being alive.

One day, while R and his friend zom-buddy M (Rob Corddry) are hunting for food as part of an undead pack, they stumble upon a group of teens from the city on patrol outside the wall. The zombies attack, but R pauses when he sees Julie (Teresa Palmer), a pretty blonde with whom he's immediately smitten. When he's shot by one of the teens, R instinctively attacks and kills Perry (Dave Franco) -- who, it turns out, is Julie's boyfriend. Eating Perry's brain causes his memories -- including those of Julie -- to flood into R, making his bond to her even closer. When she's cornered by the other zombies, R smears Julie's face with blood to fool their sense of smell into thinking she's one of them, and he leads her with the undead pack back to the airport.

He stores her in a safe place away from the other zombies, and as the days go by, he gains her confidence by gathering food communicating his intentions through grunty words and phrases. What Julie doesn't know, though, is that R is the one who killed Perry, and if that's not enough to drive the two star-crossed lovers apart, there's the small matter of her father being a hard-nosed local military leader who shoots zombies on sight. Can these two convince him and the rest of the humans that zombies aren't all bad after all?

The End Result

Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer in 'Warm Bodies'.

Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer in 'Warm Bodies'.

Photo: Jonathan Wenk © Summit Entertainment
When you combine three distinct genres like comedy, romance and horror, at least one is bound to get the short end of the stick, and in the case of Warm Bodies, it's the latter. The film hits all the right notes as a romantic comedy, from the "meet-cute" (or in this case, "meat-cute") to the comic-relief best friends on both sides to the looming secret that will inevitably drive them apart. Even if it's rarely laugh-out-loud funny, it's consistently good natured, with likable characters and moments as whimsical as you can squeeze out of a zombie apocalypse.

The horror elements fall flat by comparison, in part because the movie's edge is stunted by its PG-13 rating. For all the brain-munching, head-shooting content, Warm Bodies is pretty tame as far as gore, violence and overall grit goes (not that that's necessary for a horror movie to be good, but come on, this is a zombie movie; even zom coms like Zombieland managed to deliver on the horror side). The bulk of the traditional zombies, after all, are portrayed as sympathetic; it's the skeletal, more animalistic ones -- dubbed "bonies" -- that are the real threat to living and dead alike. And unfortunately (though understandably), the bonies are stiff, unintimidating CGI creations that resemble the stop-motion skeleton soldiers from Jason and the Argonauts. Although director Jonathan Levine proved he can handle scares in the wonderfully subversive (and woefully still unreleased) All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, here he's in a different mode altogether -- one that won't draw in many horror fans but which otherwise works fine for what it is.

Warm Bodies will likely find favor with a lot of non-zombie aficionados (read: rom commers in a Valentine's Day mood), who I fear will proclaim it the best zombie comedy -- if not best zombie movie -- of all time, but more informed genre fans could tell you that as enjoyable as it is, it's not even the best rom zom com, much less the best zom com.

The Skinny

  • Acting: B- (Likable leads and humorous supporting "besties.")
  • Direction: C+ (Levine handles the romance and drama well but can't quite deliver on the action and horror.)
  • Script: C+ (Enjoyably playful tone with a good heart, although some characters' actions seem nonsensical and serve only to further the story.)
  • Gore/Effects: C (Modest gore considering the subject matter; distracting CGI bonies.)
  • Overall: C+ (A cute, breezy romantic comedy that can't quite fit into its horror trappings.)

Warm Bodies is directed by Jonathan Levine and is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for zombie violence and some language. Release date: February 1, 2013.

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