By Will Ashton | firstname.lastname@example.org
Warm Bodies | Directed by Jonathan Levine | Rated PG-13
There is only so much that can be done with zombies. Or so you would think.
Once a metaphor for media-driven masses, people these days seem more interested in the rules behind the mythology than the meaning portrayed behind them. Don’t get me wrong, zombies are fun and I love them as much as the next guy. But after a while, it all gets kinda old, doesn’t it?
If I can applaud Warm Bodies above all else, I can stay that at least it changes things up a little bit.
The movie follows the zombie R (Nicholas Hoult), a young and lonely drifter of the zombie apocalypse who struggles to find the desire to continue eating brains. One day, when R, his zombie friend M (Rob Corddry), and a group of other zombies go around hunting down humans, he catches his eye on Julie (Teresa Palmer), a human survivor and daughter of the leader of the human revolution, and immediately falls in love.
Taking Julie to safety, R grows more and more fond of Julie as they grow closer. As their relationship develops, R notices that he’s beginning to slowly come back to life. As this progresses, he finds that life may not be as barren as he, his friends, and the world initially thought.
If there is one thing that writer/director Jonathan Levine has been demonstrating a true talent for, it’s strong characterization. In both The Wackness and 50/50, one of my favorite movies of 2011 (which he just directed), Levine proved that not only is he capable of fleshing out fully developed characters, but also that he’s able to provide enough laughs and heart to win his audiences over. In fact, I think he may be on his way to become one of the best young directors working today.
With that said, Warm Bodies is his weakest effort thus far (though I haven’t seen his first movie, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane). The biggest problem in the film lies in the script, written by Levine based on the book by Isaac Marion. The movie isn’t as clever and funny as it thinks it is. The film opens up with a cringe-inducing joke-and not from zombie violence either-and often throughout, the movie goes about throwing jokes that vary between legitimately clever to painfully bad.
And yet, the movie still kinda works. And that’s thanks to two things: the cast and Levine’s direction.
With the exception of John Malkovich, who, as much as I love him, sadly looks like he is sleepwalking through his performance (something I never thought I would say), the whole cast gives pretty solid performances. Having shown his talents very early on in his career with Billy Elliot, and then again later on in A Single Man and X-Men: First Class, Hoult shows that he truly is a charming and likable lead. Additionally, Corddry and Analeigh Tipton also give notably strong supporting performances as the comedic reliefs of the film.
While his script can be lacking, Levine does still have a great sense of pace and humor. Both of which play themselves off extremely well in this film. Particularly, it’s the movie’s general sense of self-aware humor that brings the film above the curve. I’m not aware of the film’s source material, but it was highly possible that the film could have taken itself way too seriously, going on to become more melodramatic than sincere. You know, like another popular fantasy monster love story film. I’m not naming any names.
But in all seriousness, this movie is actually more Romeo and Juliet than Twilight. In fact, it IS Romeo and Juliet. I don’t mean that in the sense of comparison, but rather that the movie’s story is inspired by the famous play-even down to the characters’ names and a recreation of the story’s most famous scene.
I think the ultimate problem with Warm Bodies, though, is that it isn’t as good as it could have been. This is not to say that it’s bad, but it’s not exactly good either. But, by the end of the film, it works just enough to get by. And the reason for this-besides the reasons mentioned-is that it does have heart, along with a good soundtrack.
There are quite a few things that don’t work in this movie. There are plot elements that don’t really make a whole lot sense, even in the film’s logic. And the movie isn’t really as funny as it could, and should, be. But it’s enjoyable enough to be worth the watch. And it’s not a bad Valentine’s Day date movie either.