If sparkly vampires can fall in love, why can’t the somewhat-undead do it too? It isn’t fair to compare Warm Bodies to Twilight, though the target audiences will have much in common. Semi-monster is conflicted about being a monster, falls in love with a girl, and goes to great lengths to prove he’s more human than monster. That said, Warm Bodies has more charm than the vamp flick, but relies heavily on audience heartstrings and less on cohesive content.
“R” (Nicholas Hoult) is a zombie. Well, he’s zombie-esque. He has blue veins, black lips and eye makeup, and blood around his mouth. Otherwise, he still looks pretty good. He shuffles around an airport with other zombies, and spends his days providing inner monologue for the audience. While out searching for living food, he and a group of biters come across a young-adult A Team. This is where R meets Julie (Teresa Palmer) for the first time, and after devouring her boyfriend’s brains, he falls in love with her (eating brains allows zombies to view their victim’s memories, and feel alive again). Saving her from the attack, he takes her to his hideout, plays Bob Dylan records for her, and feeds her. The longer they are together, the more alive he becomes. However, the rest of the world’s survivors aren’t as understanding as Julie. They are out to kick ass and chew bubblegum – and they’re all out of bubblegum. Can star-crossed love save not only the slightly undead, but humanity??
Though the plot sounds pretty cheesy, Warm Bodies has a little more life to it than that. A little. It manages to maintain a decent amount of humor throughout, although the writing is far from ingenious. The troubles begin when the rules of the post-apocalyptic world are hung out to dry. At first, R’s inner monologue tells us how much it sucks to be a slow-moving zombie, then during chase scenes, zombies can not only run but drop-kick their prey. The zombies’ only form of communication in the beginning is moaning, then suddenly the rules change again and they can utter the occasional word or two. None of the zombies really look dead, either. No one is in that mid-decay stage that most zombie-enthusiasts love to see. The only exception to this are “Bonies”: zombies who have sunken so deep into depression they rip off their skin and become Terminator-like killing machines. The graphics lie somewhere between looking like something from a video game and skinny men in skeleton suits. Having Bonies around makes it awfully convenient for the fleshy-zombies and humans to have something in common. There’s also a magical aspect to Warm Bodies (that I won’t go into detail about for spoiler reasons) that will leave those viewers who can see past the ‘power of love’ scratching their heads. The screen writers and director Jonathon Levine stayed well away from giving any real explanations of the magic, attempting to let themselves off the hook and hoping their plucking of teen heartstrings would smooth a bridge right over it. Let me just say, it doesn’t go unnoticed.
Warm Bodies tends to suffer from being a genre mash-up movie more often than it thrives on it. The plot is taken directly from Romeo & Juliette, but the execution of that aspect is pretty bland. During the balcony scene (yes, it went there), the most clever dialog blurted out was, “Julie! Julie, I came to see you!” How romantic and poetic. The action is needed desperately to keep the pace from crawling to a gooey halt, but for zombocalypse action, it’s not all that exciting. The zombies seem to be what they claim – walking, hungry corpses – but they don’t follow any of the other rules in the generally approved zombie rulebook.
Surprisingly, the acting is pretty decent. Palmer and Hoult play their characters exactly how you would expect them to be. John Malkovich plays an excellent hard-nosed father, and Rob Corddry makes for great comic relief. The musical score is almost like a character itself, allowing us to get lost in a sea of dialog-relevant classic rock songs (save for a few cheesy military and love scenes). One issue I had with the casting is that for a movie “striving” to be separate from all things Twilight, they chose a leading lady who is the spitting image of Kristin Stewart. There were moments I was sure it was her. Palmer seems to have a little more instinct for acting, but even some of the facial expressions were so similar it was startling. Makes it seem as though she was partly chosen for her ability to be the ‘Zombie Bella’, but I digress…
Fans of young adult fiction being brought to the silver screen will be pleased with Warm Bodies. There is humor, teen/early twenties aged characters, pop references, pretty monsters, and lots of that ooey-gooey ‘love can save everyone’ romance. High school guys will enjoy taking a date to this one because there are things about it they will both enjoy. For those who require a little more substance to their flicks, this may be one movie you’ll want to wait and rent for a dollar fifty. Warm Bodies is ultimately a light movie, like Bud Light or Coke Zero – Zombie Light, Shakespeare Light, Action Light, Bella Light. These qualities make it a great movie for teen date nights, or if you get stuck watching your nieces on the weekend and need something to keep their interest while keeping yourself out of hot water. It is one of the better representations of its genre, but it still lives in the realms of YA Horror-Fiction and all it
Warm Bodies gets 3 “Zombie Boyfriends” out of 5.