Warm Bodies is the coolest movie production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet since Baz Lurhman, Leo, and Claire Daines did theirs. Granted, Warm Bodies is kind of a zombie flick and is only loosely based on Shakespeare’s play, but it’s still very clever and good– and is elevated by some exceedingly good performances.
Here is a trailer:
Released February 1, 2013
Written by Jonathan Levine, based on the book by Isaac Marion
Directed by Jonathan Levine
Starring Teresa Palmer, Nicholas Hoult, Rob Corddry, Analeigh Tipton, Dave Franco, and John Malkovich
* * * * *
R (Hoult) is a different kind of zombie. In a world that has been overrun by ‘corpses,’ which is what the remaining humans call zombies, R is introspective and longs for connection. He’s still a zombie, so get him around brains of living humans and he’s gonna attack and feed, but he’s not happy with the situation. Making things worse are the ‘boneys’, which are zombies who have gone so far that they have torn off their flesh and are now just desiccated ligament and bone– and they’re fast and vicious.
When R sees Julie (Palmer) as the zombies he’s with are overrunning a patrol, a little bit of life sparks in him and he saves her, taking her to his lair. Now these two young people from different worlds spend time getting to know each other, although R can’t really talk very well. That said, the relationship he forms with Julie changes him, with far-reaching implications. R feels guilt, by the way, at having been the zombie that ate the brains of Julie’s boyfriend, Perry (Franco).
As Julie makes her way home, the changes in R spread, starting with R’s grunting friend M (Corddry, who almost steals the show again). The boneys don’t seem to like this, so they go hunting for R and Julie. Meanwhile, Julie is trying to convince her dad (Malkovich) and her friend Nora (Tipton) that there is more to corpses than grunting and a hunger for brains.
Through all of this, R’s inner dialogue fills in character and story in a charming way. The action leads to an emotional and action-filled showdown. And it turns out that the Beatles may have been right: Love just might really be all you need.
Warm Bodies is fresh, clever, charming, intermittently very sweet, and altogether very effective. It’s not Twilight, because these people are interesting and charming and delightful– and this is a believable love story.
Written with a precise and sharp eye for the humor in this absurd premise, taking shots at zombie culture and romantic tropes, and taking time to let characters explore their space and motives– make Warm Bodies a smart, charming, and entertaining film. These are, in general, the types of characters we’ve seen, but they are mostly authentic and generally behave as real people might in such situations.
What makes another difference, elevating the film even more, is the excellent acting and voiceover work of Nicholas Hoult. The kid got his start in About a Boy and has gone on to be an accomplished fellow, playing the Beast in the latest X-Men film and doing quite a lot more. He and Teresa Palmer remind the viewer a lot of the quirky, clever, modern chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in The Amazing Spiderman.
With some gross-out moments and a bit of salty language, Warm Bodies isn’t for the whole family. But teens and adults will generally get a great big kick out of this movie, finding plenty of opportunity to laugh and be pleasantly surprised by the movie’s warmth.
Content warnings: A few scary zombie moments, some gory stuff, somewhat salty language, a brief scene of a girl undressing.
Writing: 4.5 Acting: 5 Overall: 4.5
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Also, did you think Julie forgave R too easily after he ate her boyfriend? Let me know in the comments.