Warm Bodies steals your heart as hungrily as a bloodthirsty zombie, and galvanizes the first pulse of life into movie theaters this year. It’s the perfect Valentine’s Day date, as long as you don’t mind a few bloody flesh hearts to go along with the plastic ones.
The new dramatic romantic zombie comedy (dramromzomcom?) has something both previous paranormal romance movies and all 2013 movies up until now lack: brains. The script offers a plausible scenario into a world taken over by awkwardly self-conscious zombies, and oozes Easter egg parallels to a certain Shakespearean romance. It contains enough brains and heart to satisfy a legion of hungry zombies.
The basic premise may not be excessively original, but the tweaks to the formula make the movie great. The film takes place after a zombie apocalypse leaves the human race divided into three categories: One, the surviving humans who have enshrined their city/fortress in a protective wall; two, bonies, bare skeletons programmed to pounce on anything with a pulse; and three, zombies who lurk both physically and mentally somewhere in between humans and bonies. Unlike bonies, zombies still resemble humans (albeit alarmingly unhealthy ones) complete with unused vital organs, such as their hearts.
Nicholas Hoult plays an existentially conflicted corpse who refers to himself as R for lack of memory of his real name, or anything else about his life for that matter. R spends his time aimlessly slugging through a dilapidated airport and exchanging an occasional polite grunt with his best friend M (Rob Corddry).
During a standard flesh raid, R encounters Julie (Theresa Palmer) and Nora (Analeigh Tipton). R’s heart surges when he turns his icy blue eyes to Julie. No, it literally surges – something that should not be physically possible for a zombie. It may have something to do with the fact that he is halfway through devouring the brain her, well, ex-boyfriend (Dave Franco), absorbing all of his memories in the process. R saves Julie’s life and brings her back to his private jet. Despite her horror Julie finds herself falling in love with R, and the duo discovers their unconventional romance may bear importance for more than just the two of them. Not bad for a guy who can’t talk around girls.
Even though it checks all categories to be a good film, the movie lacks longevity that will keep it fresh in the minds of audiences and potential moviegoers. Hoult charms as a completely charmless carcass; one has to admire the thoughtfulness he put into his brain-dead character.
However, his living lover Palmer brought an adequate amount of punch and much needed life to the screen, but failed to impress us with distinct characterization of her own. Maybe it was because she was matched up against attention-guzzling Hoult, but Palmer couldn’t make her half of the couple independently memorable, as all successful on-screen couples do. As an audience we cheered for R and we cheered for R and Julie together. We never cheered for just Julie.
Not to say that Palmer did a poor job. In fact, the entire cast excelled, especially Corddry (who comically embodied the simplicity of a zombie’s mind, or lack thereof) and Tipton (seriously, get this girl in more movies). John Malkovich appeared as Julie’s father and human military commander… so yeah, that happened. And Dave Franco, following in his brother’s footsteps, continues to become more likable with each role.
Richly enlivened with quirky, oldie-but-goody music and a script flooded with knockout jokes, Warm Bodies is entertainment alive with actual intelligence. Yes, R the zombie will totally steal your heart. If you’re like me, you won’t mind very much.