Reviewer: A. Zombie
Rating: PG-13 (Zombie violence and some adult language)
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich, Rob Corddry
Another zombie film has hit the theaters, which means a day pass for yours truly to get out of the Zombie Survival Crew command center’s detention room for a couple hours. What is the latest zombie flick to hit the big screen? An adaptation of Isaac Marion’s novel Warm Bodies.
Boy meets girl. Boy eats girl’s boyfriend’s brain and absorbs his memories. Boy falls in love with girl and saves her from having her entrails spread over the ground. Girl begs her hard-ass father not to kill her undead love. Sounds romantic, huh? Not if you care about a little thing called necrophilia.
I had a hard time with the premise of Warm Bodies from the start. Not just because of my standing as one of the shambling undead. Zombies are, and have been for decades, soulless reanimated corpses who only want one thing—to feast on the flesh of the living. Going into the theater (hidden under a large Hello Kitty blanket), I knew I wasn’t the target audience for the film. The previews and trailers showed fresh-faced kids traversing the zombie apocalypse and surviving on the strength of their love. Call me jaded, but a gun goes a lot further to keep one safe from being eaten than doe-eyed heroic zombies.
The saving grace for the film is the smart, witty performance from Nicholas Hoult. He took what could have been dead (no pun intended) jokes and made them work with a well-timed glance or shrug. His counterpart, Teresa Palmer, started out the film strong-willed and capable of defending herself, however, as the movie progressed she became whiny, cried more than should be allowed in a zombie movie—even one billed as a teenage chick-flick—and could not keep up with the performance of her co-star. The production company did their best to make Palmer into a blonde Kristin Stewart—which is no surprise since the distributor for the film is responsible for releasing Twilight. Is it too much to ask for a young actress to thrive on her own merits? In a time when Hollywood is all about chasing trends and beating them over the head until their brains ooze across the floor . . . no. The film’s producers wanted a young woman with looks similar to someone who has been proven popular and shoved her in a role written to be dependent on a boy. And when things get too rough for her, she breaks down, cries, and then does some of the stupidest things ever witnessed in a post-apocalyptic film.
Congratulations, you replaced sparkly vampires with shambling corpses. Or did they?
The undead in Warm Bodies are vastly different from traditional zombies. The corpses, as they’re called, retain more of their humanity and are capable of minimal speech. They also move far too fluidly to be truly dead. The minimalistic effects makeup on the corpses made it difficult to tell who was dead and who was alive. I’m not saying they needed to have huge chunks of flesh falling off, but something more than pale skin and visible veins would have been nice. Again, the corpses were awfully similar to vampires.
Warm Bodies was fun to watch for the humor—most of it from R, the main corpse character. There are some cringe-worthy performances; a lot of repeated and unnecessary lines, and John Malkovich’s normal brilliance is buried under teen angst and daddy issues. As one of my undead companions said, it is a chick-flick worthy of a night-in with friends and your beverage of choice.
Overall, I’m going to give Warm Bodies three and a half gnawed-off fingers out of five. It had potential, but fell flat under the pressure to fit the current the teen movie trend of cute and heart-warming monsters instead of standing on its own merits.
I’d like to give a shout out to the Fresno Zombie Society for inviting me out to hang with them for the film’s screening. You guys sure know how to make sure a dead guy has a fun night out.