Warm Bodies

Posted: February 13, 2013 in Film reviews
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Directed by Jonathan Levine. Starring  Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer.

Its 2013 and here comes yet another zombie film…but wait, it’s not quite what you might think…this time it’s a romantic comedy, and not in a Shaun of the Dead kind of way, I mean in Shaun of the Dead the romantic protagonists were both still alive…

Hoult is R. He doesn’t remember his actual name, he’s just pretty sure it began with an R. R is a listless young man, shuffling around all day, not really accomplishing anything…which isn’t that surprisingly because he’s dead, he’s just a zombie, a reanimated corpse, albeit one with an internal monologue.

He spends his days wandering around a deserted airport, eating any unwary living people who wander his way and steering clear of the Bonies, zombies who’ve stripped away all their flesh, who’ve relinquished every shred of their humanity. R isn’t quite like the other zombies, he collects the discarded ephemera of the pre apocalyptic world, and he even has a curious kind of friendship with a fellow zombie.

Julie, on the other hand, is very much alive, and living with the tattered remnants of humanity behind a giant wall built by her father (John ‘haven’t seen him in anything for ages’ Malkovitch). She isn’t really happy with her lot either, especially when she and her friends, including her boyfriend Perry, venture outside the wall in search of supplies and run into a horde of zombies…one of whom is R.

Things get a lot worse. Perry is killed and R eats his brain, Julie meanwhile is unarmed and at the mercy of the undead…and then a strange thing happens. R catches sight of Julie, and deep inside his husk of a ribcage, his dead heart suddenly isn’t quite so dead anymore. Before you can say “George A Romero”  R has saved Julie from the clutches of the other zombies and whisked her away to his home, an abandoned airliner, but can there be any hope for a boy and a girl to find love in this messed up world, especially when the boy’s dead and his last victim was the girl’s boyfriend…

Ok, even having seen the film the above synopsis sounds cheesy, trite and, frankly, not very good, and it’s true, as zombie films go this is no Dawn of the Dead, it’s no Shaun of the Dead either. It isn’t like The Walking Dead or Zombieland or in fact any zombie film/tv show you may have seen before.

You might read the synopsis, take a look at its handsome young cast (yes even R who might be the best looking zombie ever) its story of love between the living and the dead, its cheesy effects work when zombie hearts start to beat, and it’s ‘can love conquer all’ storyline, and imagine that what we have here is Twilight with zombies…

Except to do that would be to do the film a disservice. Don’t get me wrong, as a zombie film this is, at best, entry level, the sort of film you might show someone before leading them on to, ahem, meatier fare. As a comedy however, it’s very funny.

That’s not to say its devoid of the horrific, despite its 12A certificate there’s gore—just not very much of it—and a couple of the zombie attacks, brief though they are, are quite effective, and the lead does eat someone’s brains. And as for the Bonies, seen close up they’re quite creepy, in a Ray Harryhausen kind of way. Only when we see swarms of them running later in the film is the effect lessened, and they look like A.N. Other cgi monsters.

Still, if you go see this film it’s best to think of it as a comedy with zombies in it, rather than a zombie comedy.

Much of the film’s charm, and the film’s humour rests on the shoulders of Hoult (bet you never thought he’d be a love struck zombie when you saw him in a silly hat pestering Hugh Grant in About a Boy did ya!) who is the, ahem again, beating heart of the film. From his shambling walk and doe eyed almost aspergic gaze, to his hilarious internal monologues he is quite simply the reason the film works. Hearing him think “Don’t be creepy” when he’s trying to convince Julie he’s no threat being just one of many classic lines.

Palmer isn’t quite as strong, and at times is perhaps a little too bland, though she has some good moments, and there is believable chemistry between her and R, and her zombie impression is quite amusing. Plus it must be hard to play the living in a film where the dead get all the best lines.

Malkovitch doesn’t get enough screen time to get his teeth into the role, but imbues Julie’s dad with sufficient gravitas, and similarly the rest of the cast manage to shine despite not having much screen time, from Rob Corddry as R’s friend, M, to Analeigh Tipton as Julie’s friend Nora (who almost steals the film with one of the funniest piss takes of a certain famous film’s very famous scene you’re likely to see) and even Dave (James’ brother) Franco giving Perry personality, even if it’s mostly in flashback.

Warm Bodies is lightweight, it’s fluffy and perhaps not as memorable as it could have been, but by the same token it’s not nearly as cheesy or as downright terrible as it might have been in other hands. It’s never going to end up in anyone’s zombie top ten, but it’s funny, charming and it does at least offer something a little different within the zombie genre, and you have to give it points for trying. Plus how can you not love a film with the moral; the way to a girl’s heart is through her boyfriend’s brains?

 

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