Sunday, October 06, 2013

Warm Bodies

(2013) ***1/2

I had fairly high hopes for this zombie romantic comedy after seeing a pretty charming trailer for it earlier in the year, and for the most part, it delivers.  The story gets off to a fantastic start reminiscent of Shaun of the Dead, as we get inside the head of a bored zombie commenting on his pointless existence. It's an original and fun take on the genre.

The movie largely rests on the deadpan voice-over by Nicholas Hoult, the hipster zombie in a red hoodie who can only remember that his name starts with R. I couldn't place Hoult, but I just checked, and he's the kid from About a Boy. The Juliet character is a blonde Kristen Stewart look-alike, and yeah, at times over the 2nd half of the movie, you begin to worry that it's bleeding into Twilight sappiness. Her dad is of course the militant head of the human clan, played pretty much by-the-numbers by John Malkovich. Rob Courdry is fun as R's best zombie buddy--they sit at a deserted airport bar all day, every day, exchanging sporadic moans.

This is the fun part--R walking around dryly mocking his zombie universe.

I guess one thing that is always worth discussing in any zombie story is how it establishes the science of that particular world, and this one really requires a loose leash. For one thing, as we all know, zombies are brain dead, so a zombie movie that start outs in voice over by a zombie is already in breach. I noticed that the actors suggest that it's "love" that reawakens R's humanity, but at the risk of over-analyzing a zombie romantic comedy (which, let's be honest, you're already doing if you have to even warn of the risk), that doesn't explain how human he is from the start, before he ever meets Julie. But then, the movie's only fun if he's fun, so I'm glad they chose story over zombie realism in this case.

There's a few other glitches that will likely annoy zombie purists, times when the movie doesn't seem to follow its own rules: for instance, Julie lets R drive a nice BMW convertible, and he sucks at it as you'd expect a brainless undead to. But later his buddy zombie saves the day by hopping on an airport luggage tractor and tooling around like he'd been driving for years. Also, sometimes these are slow zombies, and sometimes they're fast. Sometimes the bonies have superhuman strength, sometimes they seem pretty weak. 

But none of that stuff really bothered me, even if I noted it while it was happening.  I think why I didn't give this a higher rating is ultimately that I just don't much care for the source material. Romeo and Juliet is just so lame.


 And finally, structurally, the movie feels a little uneven--the first half is a really funny zombie comedy, the second half wants to be an endearing zombie romance, and most of the laughs really dry up. The more human R grows, actually, the less interesting he becomes as a character.

Still, definitely check this one out.


AC said...

in the queue, though mr. ac is a little reluctant given the romantic aspects.

DCD said...

I remember when this came out and thought it looked fun. I definitely want to check it out!

Catfreeek said...

Tony & I saw this at the theater, although we did like the film the theater experience was a little embarrassing as we were surrounded by what looked like an entire theater full of twihards (twilight fans).

Octopunk said...

Ha! Romeo and Juliet sucks! You heard it here first!

Nice rundown. The zombie perspective story sounds awesome. Can you guys think of other flicks about an evil person becoming good and also far less interesting? I can think of:

The villainess in Captain EO played by Anjelica Huston.

Kim Novac's character in Bell, Book and Candle

JPX said...

What an utterly ridiculous premise that somehow works? I think you can probably forgive the loosey-goosey zombie rules in a comedy. Perhaps you should do a zombie-comedy round-up?

Terrific summary.

Octo, the answer is Terminator 2.

Johnny Sweatpants said...

Interesting review. Normally I would avoid this kind of zombie blasphemy (driving a car, are you f'in kidding me?) but you have made me slightly intrigued.