Warm Bodies (review)

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Warm Bodies yellow light Nicholas Hoult Teresa Palmer

I’m “biast” (pro): liked the concept; thought the trailer showed promise; like the stars

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

I have not read the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

It’s Romeo and Juliet, except R — he can’t remember his name, just that it begins with “R” — is a zombie and Julie is one of the last not-yet-undead humans clinging to survival in a postapocalyptic world. It sounds perverse to call the concept “cute,” yet that’s both the best and the worst you can say about a movie that cannot rouse itself beyond expecting its twist on the opposites-attract motif to do all the heavy lifting itself. There’s little genuine horror, not even of the blackly comedic kind, in what should be a horrific notion, that a zombie — which we’ve always taken as mindless, no-longer-human killing machines — might be self-aware enough to be conflicted about his brain-eating, as R (Nicholas Hoult: X-Men: First Class) is. And there’s little genuine horror, not even of the blackly comedic kind, in what should be the horrific sequence of events in which R all but kidnaps Julie (Teresa Palmer: Take Me Home Tonight), who was scouting beyond the walled human city for supplies to scavenge, and keeps her prisoner for days — ostensibly to protect her from other zombies, but it’s a flimsy rationale — while they get to know each other enough to fall a little in love, or at least like-like. It’s a little bit Stockholm Syndrome-ish, and not very romantic… until we get to the goofy trying-on-sunglasses-with-the-zombie montage, at which point we realize that Warm Bodies is going to content itself with the mildest of tweaks at both the zombie and the romantic-comedy genres. Hoult and Palmer are charming, and the films hearts, both living and undead, are in the right place, as Julie has to convince her friends and finally her father (John Malkovich: Transformers: Dark of the Moon), leader of this perhaps-last human enclave, to see past his (completely justified) prejudice regarding the danger of zombies. But this can only be classified as a disappointment from writer-director Jonathan Levine — adapting Isaac Marion’s novel [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon Canada] [Amazon U.K.] — whose previous film was the much smarter, much wiser, and infinitely more satisfying 50/50. He had one joke to play with here, and he stretched it too thin.

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Tue, Feb 12, 2013 12:13am

Oh, what a shame! This looked really quite promising from the trailer, but perhaps that three-minute short film was the best format for it…

Vincent Ward
Wed, Feb 13, 2013 1:43am

Thanks for the review for the long waited movie.

Modest Complexity
Sun, Mar 03, 2013 7:12am

I really was skeptical when I heard about this – and I thought there was definitely no way it could be anywhere close to as good as Shaun of the Dead, but it totally exceeded my expectations. Like Shaun of the Dead it was a dark zombie romcom, but it definitely had it’s own distinct tone, and had great acting all around.

One area where it even exceeded Shaun of the Dead was in music – one of my favorite examples was when they used M83’s “Midnight City” during the memorable scene where R is “made up” to look like a human.

Mon, Jun 17, 2013 9:03pm

From the premise, I assumed it was Twilight-with-the-other-popular-undead-monster. Sounds like it was at least better than that! Still going to give it a pass.