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Movie Review | ‘Warm Bodies’ enlivens zombie genre

Snarky humor and revamped archetypes invigorate dying zombie genre

Published: Monday, February 4, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 4, 2013 08:02

Who would have thought that a zombie could be the next fictional heartthrob? In that vein, who would have thought that a zombie’s heart could even have a throb? “Warm Bodies”, directed by Jonathan Levine who previously turned a potentially depressing cancer story into the comedic drama “50/50” (2011), is a surprisingly funny and romantic take on the zombie film.

The romantic comedy, adapted from Isaac Marion’s novel of the same name, is told through the eyes of R, perhaps the most charismatic zombie to ever exist on−screen. Nicholas Hoult absolutely shines as R — who can’t remember his own name, except for its first letter −— and whose wide−eyed innocence and shy but likeable persona make him easy to root for. R self−describes his “boring” life to viewers through a series of witty voiceovers that reveal that zombies not only have conscious thoughts, but are also capable of having emotions. “I’m lonely, I’m lost,” R laments in his inner monologue as he is shown wasting away each day wandering around a rundown airport. “I mean I’m literally lost, I’ve never been in this part of the airport before.”

The story is a post−apocalyptic “Romeo and Juliet”: two people from vastly different backgrounds fall for each other. R meets human survivor Julie (Teresa Palmer) when her friends’ raid for medical supplies goes awry. He feels an instant attraction to her even before eating the brain, and therefore gaining the memories, of her boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco). Instead of making her his next meal, R brings Julie back to his airplane−home to protect her, and the two begin an unconventional friendship. They bond over old vinyl records, drive a red sports car up and down the landing strip and boom — there goes his supposedly undead heart: it beats.

Viewers will likely identify with R’s adorably meek attempts to get closer to Julie, his love interest. “Don’t be creepy. Don’t be creepy. Don’t be creepy,” he thinks as he catches himself staring at her again.

But their relationship isn’t easy, as Julie’s dad (John Malkovich) is a general who leads a zombie−slaying army. Understandably, the bitter general absolutely does not want his daughter to be in the presence of, let alone fall in love with, a brain−munching corpse. He firmly declares that the zombies are “unfeeling” and “incapable of remorse,” but R and Julie hope to use their growing emotional connection as counterproof. And of course, there’s a balcony scene, and Julie’s best friend, Nora (Analeigh Tipton) wants to be a nurse. These are parallels that don’t even take the characters’ names into account.

The film is refreshingly humorous, and both R and best friend M (Rob Corddry) prompt numerous laughs, despite only being able to communicate with body language, moans and the occasional one−word grunt. The undead Corddry in particular gives a new meaning to the phrase “deadpan humor”, and delivers a number of laugh−out−loud one−liners.

Analeigh Tipton, “America’s Next Top Model” alumna and “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” (2011), actress exhibits a knack for comedic timing which is much more developed in “Warm Bodies” than in it is in any of her previous films.

The film only has a handful of action sequences, but the storyline of R and Julie’s budding romance is more interesting than the killing scenes anyway. The movie also gets bonus points just for trying to step out of the zombie box, a genre that has taken over the entertainment world. The soundtrack also has a unique twist to it; the clever guy who chose Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” deserves a pat on the back.

“Warm Bodies” isn’t perfect. The second half of the film is less entertaining than the first, and the conclusion is a bit too convenient. Hardcore zombie film purists may hunger for more blood and gore, but the movie overall is a delicious treat that doesn’t need piles of guts to generate suspense and emotion; “Warm Bodies” already has heart. This is the perfect date movie for Valentine’s Day, as guys and girls will both find entertainment in the undead−fight scenes, the romantic tension and the hilarious enigma that is Corddry’s M. The star−crossed lovers’ journey is a definitely a satisfyingly fun one to follow.

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