Review: Warm Bodies

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Warm Bodies

From the director of 50/50 and All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Warm Bodies is not that hot. Director Jonathan Levine has adapted Isaac Marion's unique zombie love story into a predictably safe PG-13 screenplay.

There are a couple of well-established formulas for zombie movies that people expect to see. First and perhaps most prevalent is the survival story that pits a random group of people against an inevitable horde of the undead, trapped in a shopping mall or on an island, usually killing them off one by one until they are all gone or perhaps one or two escape.

Next is the post-apocalyptic adventure which focuses on one or two travellers as they make their way through a landscape from which the undead pop up along the way to drive the story forward. Zombieland is one of the best recent examples.

Many films combine elements of both of these stories, and hopefully throw in enough humor to balance the more gruesome mechanical aspects that are often very graphically displayed. Some of them are better than others, but an original approach is important in a subgenre so popular that it has been done to death (no pun intended).

Warm Bodies is the first story I know that is told from the point of view of the zombies, which is a highly novel take, but the structure of the film unfortunately left me hungry for more, and not in a good way. Loosely based on Romeo and Juliet, the story follows "R" (Nicholas Hoult) through his daily zombie routine as he philosophizes on the zombie condition and longs for slightly more lasting and meaningful relationships than the one he has with his zombie best friend "M" (Rob Corddry). On a hunger raid with his cohorts, R encounters Julie (Teresa Palmer) and a group of her friends on a supply run. In the scuffle that follows, R eats the brains of Julie's ex-boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco) and falls in love with her. What follows is a story of forbidden love that brings to mind Beauty and the Beast.

As Julie learns that zombies still retain some of their memories, exposure to her has stirred a change in R that is spreading to the rest of his tribe. Meanwhile, her father Grigio (John Malkovich), the leader of the remaining humans, is preparing his forces for the final battle and refuses to accept that zombies can recover. Levine spends 70 or 80 of his 97 minutes building up to this battle with the love story between R and Julie and then disappoints with little more action than the bits and pieces seen in the trailer. Malkovich is given so little to do he probably only spent a day shooting his scenes. His talent is completely wasted. Corddry has all the funniest gags, but they are sparse, and the film could have used much more of his presence.

With so little action, Warm Bodies lands squarely in chick-flick territory and never manages to escape. Hoult is charismatic, but his constant inner monologue is delivered like a solid impersonation of Jesse Eisenberg. The strongest comedic acting talents in the film are wasted, and the best jokes and gags are in the first half of the movie, leaving nothing but a weak predictable ending that feels rather abrupt.