Warm Bodies Review: The Sweetest Zombie Movie You’ll Ever See
Jonathan Levine's Warm Bodies
takes two tried-and-true movie formulas and smashes them together into something greater and more surprising than the sum of its parts. Both the romantic comedy and the zombie movie have been done to death, but neither has ever quite hit notes like these. That's not to say this film is the end all be all of either genre, but for early February, it's a quality piece of sweet and original filmmaking.
Nicholas Hoult (of X-Men: First Class
fame) plays R, a regular, run-of-the-mill zombie. See, humanity has been all but wiped out; Only a small band of men and women survives the regular onslaught of the flesh eaters, and it isn't long into Warm Bodies before one of this small band — Perry (Dave Franco) — eats it. R does the deed, and while he's snacking away on some brain, his heart starts beating. Later, he relearns how to speak. It's all because he's absorbed Perry's memories, which means when he lays eyes on his girlfriend, Julie (Teresa Palmer), he's smitten beyond belief, and these feelings do, in fact, begin to turn R human again.
One can't help but compare this, at least superficially, to Twilight
. It's more a reverse Twilight
, actually, but the idea of a creature and non-creature falling in love is hardly new. Levine (who's adapting a novel by Isaac Marion) makes the seemingly difficult jump from vampires to zombies with ease. He manages to keep a good amount of zombie lore's essential bits (unlike Twilight
), which means Hoult and the film's other actors need to do some heavy lifting to make the romance and more comedic moments work.
That material is the film's best by a long shot. Once it starts getting into wars between humans and zombies, it's on shakier ground. The film is rated PG-13, which means it was already behind in the count as far as the zombie stuff is concerned. It's a decidedly un-gory movie where everything that could have made the film edgier is implied, rather than shown.
Hoult and Palmer are certainly an appealing enough duo to make this seemingly impossible romance work. The former uses voiceover narration a lot in the film's first half, as he can't talk much, but it's surprising how little Levine relies on this technique in his screenplay. Hoult is able to do as much with a grunt as anything else, and his director smartly allows him to go there.
While Hoult was a recognizable face coming in (besides X-Men: First Class
, he's appeared in A Single Man
and was the little kid in About a Boy
), Palmer is likely an unknown to you, if you value good movies. She's starred in I Am Number Four
, The Sorcerer's Apprentice
, and Bedtime Stories
, among other films. Her solid work here makes you wonder how the good filmmakers could have missed her all this time. If the film is Romeo and Juliet
(and there are more than a few overt nods to the Bard's most famous play), she's a Juliet we've never really seen before — tough and strong-willed, but caring and sensitive.
Able supporting work is provided by Analeigh Tipton as Julie's best friend. John Malkovich plays Julie's father and the leader of the human resistance. It's what you'd expect out of a John Malkovich performance nowadays — hilariously INSANE. Ultimately, though, wild moments aren't what make Warm Bodies
special. This isn't Zombieland
. It's a sweeter effort than that, a sweeter effort than perhaps any zombie movie ever.