In "Warm Bodies," the "boy meets girl" concept becomes dead-boy-meets-girl. When a zombie is the star of your romantic comedy, do you call it a zom-rom-com?
Call it what you like, as long as you call "Warm Bodies" a warm-hearted, witty movie about finding love and acceptance and changing the world for the better - in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse.
Isaac Marion's genre-bending novel is in the right hands with Jonathan Levine writing and directing. Levine has a gift for finding romance in odd places in his movies, like his excellent "50/50" cancer comedy starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, one of 2011's best pictures.
Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John
Malkovich, Analeigh Tipton, Rob Corddry
Cinemark Tulsa, Promenade,
Cinemark Broken Arrow, Starworld 20,
RiverWalk, Owasso, Eton Square, Sand
1 hour, 37 minutes
PG-13 (zombie violence, some
(on a scale of zero to four
Levine has done it again, in what must be the sweetest, most relatively gore-free PG-13 zombie movie ever made. This is not "The Walking Dead."
Note to parents of teen girls desiring to attend: I realize that the subject matter makes you think "Over my dead body." But "Warm Bodies" was made for your daughters and women of all ages who can appreciate an off-kilter date movie.
This is more in the "Twilight" vein but with no potentially morbid sexuality to worry about. This is a movie in which holding hands is a gesture of great passion between a boy and a girl.
The film opens in the blue-gray color-scheme existence of a big-city airport, with corpses in varying degrees of decomposition shuffling about, bumping into one another and moaning.
This is where we meet our protagonist, R, a young zombie whose hilarious inner monologue tells us of his lonesome existence, his wish to do something more with his non-life and his wit.
"I'm lost," the wandering soul says in a deadpan voice. "No, really, I'm lost. I've never been in this part of the airport."
Clothed in jeans, a red hoodie and a gray T-shirt that nearly matches the color of his ashen skin, R is a self-deprecating joy and clearly not quite like all the other grunting, skin-falling-off zombies.
R is played by Nicholas Hoult, whose breakout at 12 in "About a Boy" was a decade ago. He is now breaking out again at 22 in genre films like this one, next month's "Jack the Giant Slayer" and 2011's "X-Men: First Class."
Hoult is such a droll, naturally self-conscious actor that we enjoy his smooth narration and his inability to voice more than a word ("hungry") or two at a time. He makes us sympathize with R as he explains how eating a human's brain nourishes a zombie with that person's memories.
Like when he eats a young man's brain and sees the beautiful, blond Julie, who he then rescues from a zombie attack.
"There are a lot of ways to get to know someone ... eating her dead boyfriend's brain is an unorthodox method, I know," R explains to us in his usual shrugging manner.
The boy's name is R, the girl's name is Julie. Yes, "Warm Bodies" is the umpteenth takeoff on the "Romeo and Juliet" tale. It works better than most because of its clever black comedy twist, as well as Levine's strong story construction.
As R takes Julie to the airport and they board his abandoned 737 home, a fantasy that seems ridiculous (this girl touched his heart, and now he feels obligated to keep her safe) is made plausible. They ponder their perplexing situation, bond over a soundtrack of 1980s hits and learn that people with cold bodies can still have warm hearts.
As Julie, Teresa Palmer is as physical and forceful and affecting as she was in "I Am Number Four," and she adds a vulnerability that her character must possess to make any human connection to R believable.
John Malkovich plays her militaristic father who leads the resistance in this world in which zombies are locked inside bodies and the remaining humans are locked behind downtown stadium walls as a last stand.
Moments of humanity replace graphic violence in telling the story of "Warm Bodies," as does the humor of side characters like Julie's pal Nora (Analeigh Tipton of "Crazy, Stupid Love") and R's zombie buddy M (Rob Corddry, whose appearances are brief but generate big laughs).
Levine does a beautiful job of adapting Marion's book and capturing the spirit of its ideas - until the conclusion.
Smart characters suddenly make dumb decisions in the third act in the name of story pacing. The film wraps up too neatly, in that kind of "Hollywood ending" that can take a really good film down a notch ("Silver Linings Playbook," as a recent example).
But unlike much of early 2013's dead-on-arrival movie fare, "Warm Bodies" has a pulse, and a brain, and a heart that beats strong.
Zombies take entertainment
Zombies have become firmly entrenched in our popular culture, even clawing their way into music and musicals and literature as bizarre as "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies."
But the undead have really taken over at the movies, on TV and on game consoles, and it appears they will continue to entertain our brains - as well as eat them - for some time to come.
The "Call of Duty" video game series has brought zombies back to life in a big way for game play, as have the "Resident Evil" games, along with dozens of other titles in recent years. In an era when video game violence is being looked at more closely, zombie dismemberment may be among the more acceptable slayings.
Zombie flicks have been arriving annually for several years ("Zombieland," "Resident Evil," "28 Days Later") and 2013 brings the biggest budget for a zombie adventure yet in "World War Z," with Brad Pitt playing a U.N. employee seeking out survivors of a zombie war. Based on a book by Max Brooks.
The news is breaking that a TV series based on the "Zombieland" movie is being developed. But we all know the big news: New mid-season episodes of "The Walking Dead" return to AMC on Feb. 10. Last fall's episodes of the graphic, gruesome hit broke cable audience records, often attracting more viewers than network programming.
Original Print Headline: Love And Zombies
Michael Smith 918-581-8479