By Kleinz 57
If you ever watched Easy A and thought ‘This is dece, but I wish Emma Stone was a fucking zombie,” you’re in luck. Director Jonathan Levine and LionsGate have teamed up to adapt Isaac Marion’s zombie love story Warm Bodies, dumping even more gasoline on the raging pyre that is America’s living dead obsession. (Also see: The Walking Dead, Dead Island, the Evil Dead remake, Invasion of the Not Quite Dead, I Walked With a Zombie, Zombie Hunter, Night of the Living Dead: Origins 3D, R.I.P.D., World War Z, and Silent Night of the Living Dead. I need a mint.)
During a supply raid in the apocalyptic butthole of the Western United States, Julie (Underrated Hottie candidate Teresa Palmer) and a small team of strapping young whippersnappers (including Analeigh Tipton and Dave Franco) are attacked by a pack of hungry zombies. Only something’s a bit off, because “R” (Nicholas Hoult) seems to be the rare walking corpse who can actually think for himself. From the get-go, Hoult’s first-person narration is a welcome dose of originality for the subgenre and an amusing means of endearing his character. Despite the introspection though, a zombie’s still gotta eat to grow up big and dead, and “R” devours the brains of Julie’s boyfriend, savoring every one of the dude’s memories and falling in love with Julie in the process — just like they taught you in sex ed.
What follows is a predictable but serviceable love story that adds more to the monotonous skullfuckery of zombie movies than contribute something fresh to romantic comedy. The jury’s still out on whether Hoult and Palmer have chemistry, but the pair work well in their respective roles: one as a genuine, impartial naif, the other, a dead hipster. In his slow return from undeath back to peach-faced humanity, Hoult’s comedic chops prove he can rise above the low-bar challenge of being more than a blasé X-Man in First Class. Should Jack the Giant Slayer not turn out to be a gigantic steaming box office bomb in March, he may even sidestep an eternal typecast as Great Britain’s answer to Michael Cera. (Note: JD McDouble-Wang is gonna have to pay me in chocolate coins to see that one).
With 50/50, Levine showed his knack for exploring complex relationships without crapping things up through melodrama. Warm Bodies doesn’t match that level of success, but it gets the job done, in part thanks to the helping hands of M83, Jimmy Cliff, and Feist. Levine too often backs away from letting his actors do the dramatic heavy lifting, retreating to his creative corner and tossing on Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks like a coward. A talented coward. With solid taste in Bruce Springsteen.
As far as whatever the hell happened to kick off the zombie party in the first place, don’t expect clear answers, apart from knowing that zombies who stay dead too long shed their skin and become malicious “Lara Flynn Boyles of the zombie world.” John Malkovich makes a boring turn as Julie’s overbearing military dad, and Rob Corddry’s undead best pal seems like a wasted opportunity, but Levine seems to know that, smartly downplaying specifics and lackluster relationships in favor of the quirk and cuteness. Any sparse set pieces are hum-drum and dull, even when everything looks like it was shot with an Instagram filter, and Warm Bodies thinks it can have its brain cake and eat it, too. The cheery resolution isn’t completely earned, but hey, sunsets are pretty.