Warm Bodies (2013) / Comedy-Horror

MPAA rated: PG-13 for violence, mild gore, and some language
Length: 98 min.

Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry, Analeigh Tipton, John Malkovich, Dave Franco, Cory Hardrict
Director: Jonathan Levine
Screenplay: Jonathan Levine (based on the book by Isaac Marion)
Review published February 15, 2013

Warm Bodies 2013 Nicholas HoultSet in the near future, after some form of apocalyptic event that is not particularly explained, Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class, The Weather Man) stars as a zombie nicknamed 'R', as he comes to be dubbed later due to his inability to say his own name.  R begins to transform from inarticulate undead feeding machine to close to human when he meets and begins to have feelings for Julie (Palmer, I Am Number Four).  Trouble is, Julie is the daughter of Grigio (Malkovich, Transformers: Dark of the Moon), a human zombie hunter who vows to kill as many of the zombie horde as possible, as the beings that can bleed reside within a barricaded, crumbling city.

Julie begins to reciprocate romantic feelings when she finds that R is really a sweet zombie who has vowed to protect her.  And that's even though his last act before they meet is to kill her boyfriend Perry (Franco, Fright Night), and has eaten his brain, absorbing his memories that foster his initial attraction into full-blown feelings of love. These 'Romeo and Juliet'-like lovers (even their names are an homage) find life increasingly difficult, as the reanimated dead want nothing but to feast on flesh (especially the nasty 'Boneys' who are skeletal, but fast-moving, carnivorous malevolence), while the humans want nothing but complete zombie eradication.

Based on the novel of the same name by Isaac Marion that, while not unique in terms of 'beauty and the beast' scenarios (if one can call Nicholas Hoult 'beastly'), does at least offer a unique spin on the burgeoning zombie genre in movies that is refreshing when compared to the serious and gory vehicles regularly churned out, mostly on the cheap, in theaters and on home video. Written and directed with tongue-in-cheek style by Jonathan Levine (50/50, The Wackness), the zombies that aren't Boneys can still think, though they seemingly can scarcely control their primal urges to kill and eat humans, and also have trouble with vocabulary, despite still having the ability to think lucidly.

Though R is not able to speak but a few words at a time (when he isn't just grunting), we're privy to his thoughts through a self-aware voice-over narration that adds context to his actions as well as a good dose of wry humor. Some might make comparisons to the love story at the heart of Edward Scissorhands, though R has a bit more intelligence. Although the tone is mostly light and amusing, it isn't a spoof in the way that Zombieland is. It's a rom-com story, mixed with horror flick sensibilities, not trying to inspire guffaws or thrills so much as win you over through adorability. And thankfully, it's not a Twilight-like faux angst-driven tween concoction meant to make young girls' hearts swoon, though I do think that crowd will enjoy this as well, thanks especially to the likeable performance by Hoult.

Warm Bodies lives up to its name by having a warmth inside the horror movie premise, as we come to root for these lovers to find a way, however improbable, to happiness by the end. It posits that the way to stem the zombie tide is not through violence and death, but through love and understanding. Though it is, at its core, a predictable romantic comedy of sorts, there is enough spark of ingenuity to keep the interest level up, and enough crowd-pleasing material to win over all but the most dead of hearts.
Qwipster's rating:  

©2013 Vince Leo