Film Review: Warm Bodies

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Nicholas Hoult plays a zombie in conflict with his urge to binge on brains and the stirring in his dead heart. Nicholas Hoult plays a zombie in conflict with his urge to binge on brains and the stirring in his dead heart.

Dead heads in love: Warm Bodies examines the dark comedic vacant soul of the zombie

We’re not done with zombies. Not only does the Brad Pitt starring- World War Z loom on the horizon, but in the past decade there have been countless zombie films.

Simply put, most of those movies suck. A few work. There’s Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland, a gory comedy that features four heroes driving across the country. Then there’s Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, which is scary, bloody, and in its way, wholly plausible.

Finally, there are George A. Romero’s recent zombie movies. After a 20-year break following Day of the Dead (1985), in the last seven years he’s given us Survival of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, and Land of the Dead. None is as good as his 1978 masterpiece Dawn of the Dead.

What can we make of Warm Bodies? Aside from featuring the undead, this movie tacks where few others do. First, it’s a love story (though Brian Yuzna’s much, much gorier Return of the Living Dead III is, too). Second, it’s a comedy (as is Zombieland and parts of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead).

What Warm Bodies has that most other zombie flicks don’t is the zombie’s story. Our narrator, R (Nicholas Hoult), is a zombie. He doesn’t know why he’s a zombie. He just knows he is. He also knows he’s different from most other zombies. He collects things, like vinyl records. He tries to make friends, and has one in M (Rob Corddry).

What he shares with his brethren is a taste for brains. When a band of humans looking for supplies raid the zombie-plagued section of town where R exists, he kills Perry (Dave Franco), and falls in love with Perry’s girlfriend, Julie (Teresa Palmer).
That’s when R starts to change. Suddenly he’s more interested in love than brains.

He has an uphill struggle. There are other zombies who don’t understand why he loves a human; the humans don’t trust him, in particular, Julie’s father, Grigio (John Malkovich), who runs security in the walled-off city where the humans live; and then there are the Bonies, zombies who have no humanity left. They just want to eat.

It’s absurd, but Warm Bodies is the right kind of absurd. It’s just bloody enough to make the zombies feel like a legitimate threat. It’s just funny enough to make you forget how ridiculous it all is.

Hoult, who’s come a long way since playing the outcast kid to Hugh Grant’s hip loner in About a Boy, has the right face for R. His big eyes show what’s going on in his dead head—zombies can barely speak—and as he becomes more human, he revels in his rediscovered ability to move and talk.

He’s matched well with Palmer, who, like R, is an outsider within her circle. Her Julie is tough but not afraid to see some humanity in the dead. Corddry’s shtick—inappropriate jerk with a heart of gold—translates well as M becomes more human. It’s all done so lightly, you may even say “Awwwww” once or twice before the credits roll.

Warm Bodies/PG-13, 98 minutes/Regal Stonefield Stadium 14 and IMAX

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