“Warm Bodies” is definitely a twist for zombie-loving fans. Previous pop culture outings (see: “Night of the Living Dead” and “The Walking Dead”) cast zombies as lifeless creatures that can’t think or do anything but groan and try to scavenge humans. Isaac Marion, author of the film’s book inspiration, and Jonathan Levine, director of “50/50,” broke away from the zombie stereotype. Starring Nicholas Hoult (“Skins UK,” “X-Men: First Class,” Jennifer Lawrence’s ex-boyfriend) as a zombie named “R” and Teresa Palmer (“I Am Number Four”) as human zombie-hunter Julie; the zombie romantic comedy is definitely a twist that living dead movies need. But there’s also another classic that got its own twist in “Warm Bodies”: Shakespeare staple “Romeo and Juliet.” As many times as the classic play is done, the star-crossed zombie-human lovers is as-of-yet unheard of.
R is different from the other zombies. Audiences learn this with his hilarious inner monologue. He doesn’t know who he was, what he did or even his age or name, but R knows that he doesn’t like the life of being a zombie. One day, when he and his zombie friends are out hunting for food, they come across Julie and her friends searching for medicine outside the walls surrounding the city. R sees the girl and immediately music starts playing as the rest of the scene goes into slow motion. The zombie boy cannot bring himself to eat her; instead, he brings her back to his home (in an abandoned airport) to keep her safe.
Throughout the movie, some zombie lovers might get a little frustrated. Zombies can’t play music on a record player, zombies can’t speak, zombies only walk around aimlessly, etc. But what makes this movie so different is the realization that, while the zombie culture is huge in our world, it’s mostly made up and is subject to change. It is interesting seeing a movie from a zombie’s point of view. R claims how much guilt he has from eating humans, but he cannot continue living otherwise. It’s strange that, besides the beginning when R is eating Julie’s boyfriend’s brains, the audience doesn’t see him feasting on anyone.
Similar to the undead zombies audiences are used to, R and Julie, along with humans and regular zombies, have to deal with the “Bonies,” a.k.a. soulless, heartless skeletons that are actually a bit terrifying. The Bonies show no remorse and don’t have any other motive other than feasting on humans, which puts them at odds with both R and his slowly unzombiefying friends, and Julie and her zombie-hunting gang.
“Warm Bodies” is a mix of genres done right. Hoult is definitely an actor to look out for (with this movie and “Jack the Giant Slayer” out next month, he is getting a lot of attention). Playing a zombie cannot be easy, but he does a brilliant job with humor and getting attached to the undead. By the end of the film, audiences are rooting for them and can’t help but find the new-found compassion quite adorable. “Warm Bodies” isn’t a movie that should win any awards, but it’s a feel-good movie that will leave audiences feeling, well, warm. —
Speakeasy Rating: B+
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich
Rated PG-13 zombie violence and some language