I dislike romantic comedies (unless it is done really well) and I love zombie films (so long they aren’t like the garbage that George Romero has been dishing out lately). When I first saw the preview for “Warm Bodies”, it kind of made me cringe and I thought “What is this, the “Twilight” of the zombie genre?” “Twilight” is one film franchise that I could not even begin to understand its popularity, since it is so stupid that it isn’t even funny. Be that as it may, a friend dragged me along to see “Warm Bodies”, and I am happy to report that it isn’t the “Twilight” of the zombie genre. Yes, it is still a zomedy-drama, but hey, almost nothing can be perfect these days.
After a zombie apocalypse, a zombie, who will be later be known as R (played by Nicholas Hoult) wanders around America and for some reason, he behaves a little differently than other zombies as he likes collect “things”. He kind of roams around with his zombie buddy M (Rob Corddry) as they communicate with rudimentary moans and groans. But things for R are about to change, as one day, R runs into a group of folks during one of their zombie pack runs. Among these folks, is a young woman named Julie (Teresa Palmer, I am Number Four, The Sorcerer‘s Apprentice) and R somehow forms an infatuation with her. He saves her from his zombie buds and takes her to his ‘hangout’. The two begin to form a strange kind of friendship…or maybe something even more? However, things may not be easy for Julie and R, as Julie’s Dad (John Malkovich) is the man in charge of a large human community and he does not like walking corpses. There is also the threat of skeletal zombies, the final stage of ‘devolution’ that the undead have come to call “Bonies”….
First of all, to enjoy this movie, one needs to get rid of the idea that “Warm Bodies” is a horror-comedy at its core. It isn’t, it is definitely a romantic comedy that uses the backdrop of the zombie genre to make its point. Director/writer Jonathan Levine (fresh from the success of 50/50) comes into the zombie genre with a more delightful approach to its premise. Gore and blood are almost none-existent, and zombie eating buffets are more hinted at than actually making it on-screen. I was a little disappointed, but then again, I knew what I was getting into when I went to see this film. It was a little quirky and a little odd, that I would have to say that die-hard zombie film fans may be a little turned off, and many may say that this film had ruined the genre; but it sure felt fresh as a romantic comedy.
I guess what I enjoyed about the film was the fact that it gives R a lot of personality. Most of the film is seen through his point of view and just how things apply to his ‘undead way of life’. R likes to get ‘high’ in consuming ’brains’ and it also gives a credible reason as to why he does so. The script was able to bring forth an area of humanity of the undead, and how conflicted they are when they kill people. Nicholas Hoult made for a charming zombie lead, and it was easy to connect with him due to the humor in his inner monologue. His thoughts became the story and it became easy to relate to his situation. The delivery was simple but strong, as R formed a chemistry with Julie (Teresa Palmer), a little far-fetched but convincing nonetheless. Palmer was charming as the female protagonist; yes, their relationship appeared from out of nowhere, but hey, it was an expression as to how ‘feelings can sneak up on you’. It was nice to see some ‘heart’ in a zombie movie, and in some ways, the message it wanted to convey was similar to the fantastic animated film “The Iron Giant”--”you can change or choose what you want to be. So choose.
I do have to admit that I became intrigued, I wanted to see how everything would play out. It does manage to humanize the zombies and I do have to say, it was funny; not laugh out loud funny but funny. Sure, the film takes a sort of a leap of faith as it tries to pitch the idea of ‘love’ without that much groundwork. But the mere thought of having a zombie movie preach about unity and acceptance rather than how humans can be more cruel than zombies feels refreshing. Yeah, it lacked solid groundwork, but I guess since love and hope are emotions, it all comes into a matter of faith (in humanity). Levine also had some good moments in the script and his direction felt solid, I liked how he used subtle metaphors (see the last scene and the metaphor of an airport) to bring forth his message. Despite its simplicities and predictability, it was easy to get into its premise.
I guess the weaknesses of the movie began to show around the second act. I mean, I know that this film was intended as a ‘feel good’ movie but I felt that several areas of the film began to drag. There was just a little too much to buy into, and the film just lost a lot of its momentum after Julie and R (R and Julie, as in "Romeo and Juliet"?) arrived in the human community. John Malkovich’s character was just so underwritten that the potentials of a ‘star-crossed’ lovers theme became lost. I liked its humor, but despite its delivery and proper timing, some of the jokes felt a little too familiar, and they weren’t as fresh as they should’ve been. The film also felt a little rushed, as the attack of the “Bonies” felt more like a plot filler than a vital device in the film. I know that I may be looking for things that weren’t supposed to be there, but their absence certainly made the film a little less fun to watch.
“Warm Bodies” is a charming film, not a horror movie at all, but something meant to induce a snicker, maybe make one ‘feel good’ as its messages about love, unity and acceptance was strong around its screenplay. I know, for such a simple movie, I had little to complain about and really I just wasn't its target audience. However, the film feels a little too ‘easy’, while it wasn’t a bad movie, its one flaw is that not much happens in its narrative and it appeared to have placed limits to its aspirations. Yes, I was amused with “Warm Bodies”, that I can say that it is worth a watch at least once. It is worth more as a Rental on a lazy Valentine’s Day as long as you can love zombies with the one you love. Man, Romantic comedies are trying to muscle into the zombie genre. Oi. [3 Out of 5 Stars]