Innovation is necessary for any series or genre of film to survive and prosper. Those that don’t continue to disappoint (both critically and financially) because the same trick is being used over and over again and people are sick of paying to see it (I’m looking at you every western movie made in the last 10 years). So when I heard about a romantic comedy zombie movie based off a book that basically tells an undead version of Romeo and Juliet (the leads are called R and Julie to boot), I had to admit this is certainly something different from the zombie community. Zombies have always been popular and keep popping up even to this day, so what makes “Warm Bodies” worth your time and is it more for romantics or more for zombie fanatics? Let’s find out.
While attacking/eating some humans who cross paths with R, he finds Julie (Teresa Palmer), a beautiful girl who he feels inexplicably drawn to. He keeps her safe from other zombies and “Bonies”, creatures who are de-evolved zombies that kill human and zombies alike. The two develop an odd relationship that causes humanity to spread to the other zombies like a virus. Unfortunately, Julie’s father Grigio (John Malkovich) wants to eradicate all zombies and now the two must save the zombies from becoming killed by humans and from the Bonies.
“Warm Bodies” is an odd mix of romance, humor and supposedly horror but in reality, there’s nothing even remotely terror inducing about these walking corpses. The zombies here look more like pale weirdos with some interesting eye colors and gross eating habits, they’re portrayed almost cartoonishly bizarre to make them seem more like characters and less like the monsters zombies are typically portrayed as. But the innovation of the story and the creative use of humor works far better than any misinterpreted idea of horror existing. Hoult is the perfect lead with his hilarious narration and highly expressive features. He’s got this look that conveys so much humor even without his witty commentary. It’s an aspect about this portrayal that really makes the film stand out and one I was certainly not expecting to come across.
Teresa Palmer makes a fine foil to Hoult’s quirks. She works as a love interest, as a character and as a well-balanced peace keeper between the undead and the living. Dave Franco and John Malkovich provide acceptable performances but are by no means memorable enough to linger long in your memories. David Corddry proves he can make anyone laugh even with a few grunts and broken sentences. You know you’re doing something right when the undead characters who rely almost solely on shambling and wide eyed expressions feel more “alive” than the human characters. It’s a true credit to this unique and unusually delightful portrayal of zombies.
The rest of the cast clearly suffers from adequate attention or development. No one else is memorable or worth mentioning, the zombies and the romance are the real headliners here. Unfortunately the romance feels awkward and difficult to process on a believable level. Sure, this is more comedic than serious but with the romance being the literal heart of the story, it would have been beneficial if the chemistry was there but it didn’t always feel like it was. This movie also feels too safe. Being PG-13, its obvious the zombies can’t be as authentic cannibalistic as they’re supposed to be according to everyone’s desire to put them down. Zombie films are exceedingly depressing but even the comedic takes on them know gore is needed. The Bonies are poorly rendered and only help reinforce the fact that the writers couldn’t give their zombies the bite that the story presented them to have.
Overall, “Warm Bodies” produced some truly talented leading actors with a sharp, refreshing sense of humor that gives us a new look and understanding towards the zombie lore. Hoult, Palmer and Corddry leave everyone in the dust with their scene stealing performances and the use of expressions and narration were surprisingly funnier than expected. The romance doesn’t always work though, the supporting cast is forgettable and its safe depiction of zombie’s horrific nature inadvertently disrupted the flow and effect they were aiming for. Still, it’s funny and devilishly different enough to warrant your interest and time. It’s no “Shaun of the Dead” but it’s one of the better and far more memorable zombie comedies out there.
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